The pepperoni roll is an Italian-American stuffed roll. Originally conceived as a lunch for coal miners, it is popular in West Virginia and in some nearby regions of the Appalachian Mountains, such as eastern Kentucky, western Pennsylvania, western Maryland and the Appalachians of Ohio. The pepperoni roll became very popular just as Italian and other cuisine became widespread in West Virginia. Since railroad operations were focused there, a large number of immigrant families settled in the area.
With them, they brought new styles of food and recipes, adding their unique Appalachian touch to pepperoni rolls. It's such a unique food that when you travel across the country, many people you talk to have never heard of a pepperoni roll. Fish Hawks Acres, by Dale Hawkins, in Buckhannon, adds caramelized ramps to its famous homemade pepperoni rolls. It's an interesting content and it makes me appreciate the fighting spirit of the bakers and I'm glad that the senator intervened, because I couldn't imagine West Virginia without pepperoni rolls at every gas station, let alone in a bakery.
While north-central West Virginia, with its large Italian-American community, is still the heart of pepperoni roll country, this dish can now be found from the northern tip of the Panhandle to the coal mines in the south and everywhere in between. The Department of Agriculture sought to reclassify pepperoni roll bakeries as meat processing plants, which in turn would add more regulations that bakeries would have to follow. I made a speech about the pepperoni roll for public speaking a few years ago and learned the story of where and why it was made. A common misconception is that pepperoni rolls are restricted or even illegal in other states, such as neighboring Virginia.
For more information on West Virginia's favorite food, check out the book The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll by Candace Nelson. Country Club Bakery The birthplace of the commercial pepperoni roll, Country Club still makes its rolls the same way it did in the 1920s and 1930s, when Giuseppe Argiro devised the recipe. These soft, chewy rolls are filled with slices of pepperoni and cheese and topped with even more cheese to create the perfect snack. Pepperoni rolls took many forms, from cheese, shredded or ground meat and stuffed on a ramp to single-stack and multi-stack varieties.
Abruzzino Italian Bakery This bakery was the first to make the transition from a harder Italian bread to the softer, sweeter bread that is more commonly found in pepperoni rolls today. Home Industry Bakery The owners of Home Industry Bakery always added cheese to their pepperoni rolls when they ate them at home, so they wanted to see if customers would enjoy it too. In addition to the various Italian bakeries that specialize in making them, pepperoni rolls are also sold in gas stations, supermarkets, restaurants with dining tables, sporting events and even donut shops. Home Industry now produces rolls with provolone cheese or hot pepper, as well as rolls with Oliverio peppers baked inside.