The pepperoni roll, a soft bread roll with pepperoni baked in the middle, originated in the coal mining areas of north central West Virginia when Italian immigrants invented a food that could be eaten easily underground.
This spicy snack soon found its way out of the mines and into bakeries, bread companies, restaurants, and event venues around the state, often with additional ingredients like cheese, red sauce, or peppers added to this humble food staple.
As the pepperoni roll’s reputation moves beyond the borders of West Virginia, this food continues to embody the culinary culture of its home state. It is now found at the center of bake offs, eating contests, festivals, as a gourmet item on local menus, and even on a bill in the state’s legislature.
The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll is a comprehensive history of the unofficial state food of West Virginia. With over 100 photographs and countless recipes and recollections, it tells the story of the immigrants, business owners, laborers, and citizens who have developed and devoured this simple yet practical food since its invention.
Bakeries from the Beginning
The Science of Pepperoni Roll Making
Sticks vs. Slices (vs. Ground)
Pepperoni Roll Prevalence
The Pepperoni Roll Makes Media Headlines
Pepperoni Roll Crusades
Pepperoni Roll Events
Notable West Virginians Offer Their Gut Reactions
So Good It Should Be Illegal
Pepperoni Rolls Around the State: Where to Find Them
Adaptations for Dietary Concerns
The Great Pepperoni Roll Expansion: Recipes
The Final Pepperoni
Candace Nelson, a West Virginia native, is the social media editor at West Virginia University. She writes Candace Lately, a blog that focuses on food culture in West Virginia, and resides in Morgantown.
From the foreword by Emily Hilliard, West Virginia State Folklorist:
“In The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll, Candace Nelson offers us an insider’s take on the pepperoni roll, exploring the history, science, great pepperoni roll debates (sticks v. slices, Sheetz v. the people of West Virginia), cultural context, regional variations, and adaptations as only a native could. As the nature of my work as state folklorist takes me all over West Virginia, hungry both in appetite and in my quest to sample local traditional culture—including foods—I am grateful to have such a guide.”