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 bread bars one step further. 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 protein and fat as energy and prevented 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. According to Country Club Bakery, the pepperoni roll was invented by its founder Giuseppe 'Joseph' Argiro. In the early 1920s, the Calabrian immigrant worked in coal mines in the north of the state and realized that the lunches of other Italian miners usually consisted of a slice of bread, a piece of pepperoni and a bucket of water.
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. And Abruzzino's, in the nearby town of Gypsy, bakes pepperoni rolls that look like elongated rolls, with cotton interiors full of folded slices of meat. Argiro originated the pepperoni roll at a time when Italian foods were gaining popularity in West Virginia and surrounding Appalachian areas. At BFS convenience stores, where they are sold along with Hot Pockets and other nationally distributed takeout foods, shift workers heat pepperoni rolls in microwave ovens and immerse them in packages of marinara sauce.
Tomaro's Bakery, the oldest Italian bakery in the state and just a few miles away in Clarksburg, developed its version of the pepperoni roll around the same time. AFTER dropping a bunch of scrap coating in the dump here, Jeff Willis, a contractor from this former coal mining center, returned to the Go Mart to get his second roll of pepperoni in the morning. Last summer, a historic monument was placed outside the Country Club Bakery in Fairmont, West Virginia, the 94-year-old still-functioning monument that claims to be the birthplace of the state's iconic pepperoni rolls. Knowing that they ate pepperoni rolls gives you an insight into their daily lives that is invaluable to genealogists.
And there's a major league-approved pepperoni bagel eating contest that takes place during the annual Three Rivers Festival. 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), the world-famous Colasessano pizza, Rogers and Mazza (Marty's) pepperoni rolls, and Home Industry Bakery have their own unique version of this treat. Home Industry Bakery of Clarksburg, which owes its contradictory name to an early Depression-era business that sold homemade baked goods for local women, bakes pepperoni rolls that, when hot, ooze cheese with pepper. From there, it was a brief evolutionary step to sell commercially baked pepperoni rolls in taverns and rural stores to move workers who needed cheap, portable food.
You'll also know that there are several generations of West Virginia families that have enjoyed the pepperoni roll before you. The pepperoni roll is found primarily in West Virginia and some of the nearby surrounding areas, such as western Pennsylvania, the Ohio Appalachians, and western Maryland. While generally eaten as a snack, pepperoni rolls can also be eaten as lunch and served at room temperature or slightly warm.