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.
A handful of people followed the line, helping to cement the pepperoni roll in West Virginia's dining culture. If you're not from the area, haven't been there, or don't know anyone there, you may have never heard of the pepperoni roll. 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.
The town of Mannington, less than 15 miles from Fairmont, offers an oversized pepperoni roll at midnight on New Year's Day. And there's a major league-approved pepperoni roll eating contest that takes place during the annual Three Rivers Festival. Last summer, a historic monument was placed outside the Country Club Bakery in Fairmont, West Virginia, the 94-year-old monument that still works and claims to be the birthplace of the state's iconic pepperoni rolls. 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.
The first pepperoni rolls were probably created by miners' wives, but they were first commercially produced around 1927. Bakeries in north-central West Virginia, such as D'Annunzio's Italian Bread, Abruzzino's Italian Bakery, Chico Bakery (home of Julia's pepperoni rolls), Colasessano's World Famous Pizza & Pepperoni Buns, Rogers and Mazza Italian Bakery (Marty's) and Home Industry Bakery (Marty's), and Home Industry Bakery have their own unique versions of the treat. The West Virginia Black Bears minor league baseball team has a trio of pepperoni rolls that run against each other across the field between innings. 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. According to Country Club Bakery, the pepperoni roll was invented by its founder Giuseppe 'Joseph' Argiro.
Giuseppe's original bakery, Country Club Bakery, is still in operation today and continues to bake his basic recipe for fresh pepperoni roll every day.