The treatment has deep roots in the coal industry (as well as in our own state). The pepperoni roll is considered a cornerstone of culture in north-central West Virginia, an area with a large Italian population. Giuseppe Argiro, an Italian immigrant and coal miner, created this popular dish in 1927 by taking an already popular snack of pepperoni sticks and loaves of bread one step further. Argiro baked the pepperoni inside the bread, which caused the fats in the pepperoni to melt and to infuse the soft bread with its spicy oil.
Needless to say, the pepperoni roll was an instant hit. Not only was it tasty, but coal miners appreciated its portability and lack of need for cooling. It could be eaten by hand, and it was often okay to eat it as leftovers a day later. West Virginia's most popular snack can be found in small bakeries across the state.
The origin of pepperoni rolls dates back to 1927, when Giuseppe “Joseph” Argiro made and sold them at the Country Club bakery in Fairmont, West Virginia. Argiro originally invented the pepperoni roll as lunch for local coal miners. They prepared an excellent meal for coal miners because they had proteins and fats as energy and avoided hunger, and they didn't need refrigeration, which made it easy to put them in a backpack or bucket and take them alone to the mines without needing any other type of preparation. Argiro sold the pepperoni roll to his hungry mining customers from the moment he invented them, until around 1950, when they began to gain more widespread popularity.
Pepperoni rolls, a distinctive West Virginia invention, have been a mainstay in the Mountain State for nearly a century. Today, portable snacks are a staple at pizzerias, gas stations and convenience stores across the state. And, for purists, there are also a handful of historic Italian bakeries that are still making traditional pepperoni rolls with a recipe refined in the early 1920s. Not exactly a traditional sandwich or calzone, the sturdy rolls simply consist of pepperoni sticks baked on a fluffy Italian bread.
Officially, the credit for the brew is attributed to Giuseppe “Joseph” Argiro, a baker and coal miner from southern Italy. Born in Calabria, Argiro settled in northern West Virginia, attracted by opportunities in the coal mines surrounding Fairmont. Country Club Bakery was founded in 1927 by Guiseppe Argiro, a coal miner from the Italian region of Calabria, who is generally credited with being the first to sell pepperoni rolls. Knowing that they ate pepperoni rolls gives you an insight into their daily lives that is invaluable to genealogists.
Pepperoni rolls with artisanal cheese even appear on the menu at Bourbon Prime, the farm-to-table restaurant that specializes in cutlets attached to the Marriott at Waterfront Place in Morgantown. The pepperoni roll is found primarily in West Virginia and in some of the nearby surrounding areas, such as western Pennsylvania, the Appalachians of Ohio, and western Maryland. If you're not from the area, haven't been there, or don't know anyone from there, you may never have heard of the pepperoni roll. Variations of the original pepperoni roll may contain different types of cheese, peppers, or other ingredients.
Almost 100 years after Giuseppe Argiro's famous invention, the pepperoni roll is still alive in the hearts and mouths of his fans. Since pepperoni is the core component, the agency proposed to re-label the bakeries that produced the rolls as meat packers, which would have meant tighter restrictions and daily inspections. Argiro originated the pepperoni roll at a time when Italian foods were gaining popularity in West Virginia and surrounding Appalachian areas. You'll also know that there are several generations of West Virginia families who have enjoyed the pepperoni roll before you.
If you're lucky enough to stumble across a pepperoni roll and you've never eaten it before, do yourself a favor and try it. While generally eaten as a snack, pepperoni rolls can also be eaten as lunch and served at room temperature or slightly warm. .