Pepperoni rolls are having a serious moment. The Appalachian delicacy is about to be more than just lunch in West Virginia, as the State House of Representatives recently introduced a bill that would declare it the state food.
"Whereas, Often referred to as the 'unofficial state food of West Virginia,' the simple-to-make pepperoni roll is more than the sum of its parts, every single bite is filled with soft, warm bread infused with flavor from the freshly cut, delicately seasoned pepperoni," reads the bill, which was introduced by over 40 delegates on March 9 in the Mountain State.
The authors of the bill go on to share some of the storied history of the "humble pepperoni roll," comparing it to foods from other states.
"Whereas, Philadelphia may have its cheese steak and New York its bagels, the pepperoni roll was first created in Fairmont, around 1927 by Italian immigrant baker, Giuseppe 'Joseph' Argiro, and it should be no surprise that it quickly became a daily staple for coal miners and struggling families," reads the legislation.
The bill requests that all citizens of West Virginia join in recognizing the importance of the pepperoni roll.
And who could disagree with the decision? The rolls, popular in West Virginia, Ohio and Western Pennsylvania, consist of pepperoni baked into a soft, white fluffy bread. As it warms, the fats from the pepperoni seep into the bread, making it an oily and comforting snack.
The state even has a pepperoni roll-eating contest: In 2019, the reigning champ, Joey Chestnut (of hot-dog-eating fame), rolled out after downing 43 of them in just 10 minutes! And last summer, a historical marker was placed outside the Country Club Bakery in Fairmont, which claims to be the birthplace of the pepperoni roll.
Legends & Lore, which promotes cultural tourism by commemorating legends and folklore, erected a sign says that the "West Virginia delicacy was created by Italian families in Fairmont to feed local coal miners" and that variants of the rolls are now popular statewide. Still, they won't become the official state food without a confirmation from the state Senate rules committee.
The Country Club Bakery says that creator Argiro saw that coal miners were eating "a slab of bread, a chunk of pepperoni, and a bucket of water" for lunch and got the idea to bake the pepperoni into the bread.
Tomaro's, in business for 107 years, and known as "West Virginia's oldest bakery" lays their own claim to the beginnings of the pepperoni roll.
These days, the popular treat can be found in convenience stores, and places like Country Club Bakery sell them pre-packaged.
Of course, you can also try making your own pepperoni rolls. This pinwheel-style version, from West Virginia native Katie Lee Biegel, is stuffed with gooey cheese — and broccoli! — for a perfect grab-and-go meal.