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The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll

Candace Nelson
Foreword by Emily Hilliard
Available now!
PB 978-1-943665-74-7


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.  Learn about upcoming events with Candace Nelson.


Author’s Note

Bakeries from the Beginning
Country Club Bakery
Tomaro's Bakery

D'Annunzio's Italian Bread dba The Health Bread Company
Abruzzino's Italian Bakery
Chico Bakery — Home of Julia's Pepperoni Rolls
Colasessano's World Famous Pizza & Pepperoni Buns
Rogers and Mazza's Italian Bakery (Marty's)
Home Industry Bakery (A&M Bakery)
The Donut Shop
JR's Donut Castle

The Science of Pepperoni Roll Making
The Bread
The Pepperoni

Sticks vs. Slices (vs. Ground)

Pepperoni Roll Prevalence
School Lunches
Gas Stations
Ballparks, Arenas and Stadiums

The Pepperoni Roll Makes Media Headlines

Pepperoni Roll Crusades
2013 CQ Roll Call Taste of America
You Can’t Outsource the Pepperoni Roll

Pepperoni Roll Events
Golden Horseshoe Great Pepperoni Roll Cook-off
West Virginia Three Rivers Festival
Other Fairs and Festivals

Notable West Virginians Offer Their Gut Reactions

So Good It Should Be Illegal
Bakery Classifications
Legality in Other States
Official State Food

Pepperoni Rolls Around the State: Where to Find Them
Keeping with Tradition
The Modern Pepperoni Roll

Adaptations for Dietary Concerns

The Great Pepperoni Roll Expansion: Recipes
Whitney Hatcher’s Easy Pepperoni Rolls
Kaitlynn Anderson’s Low-Carb (and Gluten-Free) Pepperoni Rolls
Momma’s Hot Rolls

The Final Pepperoni



Candace Nelson, a West Virginia native, is the digital marketing coordinator for the West Virginia Division of Tourism. She writes Candace Lately, a blog that focuses on food culture in West Virginia. Learn about more about Candace Nelson at

Foreword writer:
Emily Hilliard is the West Virginia state folklorist. Her food writing has been featured by NPR, the Southern Foodways Alliance, Lucky Peach, and the Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, among others. She writes the pie blog Nothing in the House at

Learn about upcoming events with Candace Nelson.


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.”