The Pepperoni Roll

Early WV miners created one of WV’s best-kept secrets.

Unless you’ve been to West Virginia to try a pepperoni roll, you probably don’t know what it is. It was first created in Marion County in the 1920’s, and it is virtually unheard of anywhere else.

A Marion County Original - The Pepperoni Roll
A Marion County Original – The Pepperoni Roll

But they’re such a staple here, even convenience stores entice us with them at the checkout line. We West Virginians love them so much, we’ve named them the official “State Food.”

Sticks of pepperoni and bread was a staple for miners to take underground for their long days.  It wasn’t long before Giuseppe “Joseph” Argiro, an Italian immigrant coal miner seeking a convenient lunch decided to bake the pepperoni in the bread.  The classic pepperoni roll is made up of a soft white yeast bread roll with pepperoni baked in the middle. During baking, the fats in the pepperoni melt resulting in spicy oil infusing into the bread.  The pepperoni roll became so popular with his fellow miners that Giuseppe quit the coal mines and opened Country Club Bakery in 1927.  That little bakery is still pulling fresh, warm pepperoni rolls out of its oven each day.

 “We’re the original, so we take pride in our product,” said Chris Pallotta, current owner of the bakery. “We make sure we make them all day, every day. Every pepperoni roll you buy from us is made within the hour.”

It was a true WV innovation— a snack that needed no refrigeration or heat, but hearty enough to be meal. Something we can pack with us to take out into the scenic WV mountains, and even camping for a few days.

As simple as it seems, the flavor of a pepperoni roll is deliciously memorable. The cravings for its gooey goodness call out to first-timers so intensely, Chris said they sometimes call immediately after they leave to order a supply to be sent home. The Country Club Bakery ships out orders several times a week, sending the treat to avid fans across all 50 states.

Other restaurants in Fairmont and Marion County also serve up their own variations on the state staple. You’ll find them spicy, bite-sized, double-filled and stuffed with unique ingredients.

Each chef has his own special recipe so be sure to try them all in the “Pepperoni Roll Capital of the World.” Some other must-stops with their own unique rolls are Colasessano’s Pizza and Pepperoni Buns, Mario’s NY Style Pizza and Mazza’s.

WV Pepperoni Roll Recipe

Makes 20 traditional pepperoni rolls

- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup water
- 3/4 cups sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup butter, melted
- 1 tbsp dry yeast
- olive oil
- 20 3-inch pepperoni sticks

- Mozzarella cheese
- Oliverio Peppers
- Hot dog chili (a WV favorite made with ground beef & tomato paste, spiced with chili powder and red pepper - often loaded with garlic and finely-chopped onions)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon sugar in warm water. Add yeast and let sit 5 minutes.

Mix flour, sugar and salt. Stir in yeast mixture, then eggs and butter. Knead until smooth.

Lightly coat with oil, and let sit 2 hours.

Pinch off 1 1/2-inch balls and flatten. Roll dough around pepperoni stick, and close ends. Place on a baking sheet.

Bake about 15 minutes, until tops begin to brown.

Let cool, and enjoy while pepperoni oils are still warm and fused with bread.

Store in air-tight container or freeze.

(Frozen bread dough may be used in place of dough recipe.)