Your guide to West Virginia’s favorite travel snack.
Like New York’s bagel or Philadelphia’s cheesesteak, the pepperoni roll has become West Virginia’s most iconic state food. It’s a dish rooted in our history, emblematic of Mountaineers’ hardworking, resilient, and resourceful nature. It’s also delicious. Something magic happens when a soft oval of slightly sweetened dough bakes together with spicy pepperoni, infusing the bread with oil and herbs. One bite can fill the tummy and the heart.
The humble snack was likely first created in the kitchens of Italian coal miners’ wives, who were looking for a portable, shelf-stable lunch for their husbands to take in their dinner buckets. Although north central West Virginia, with its large community of Italian Americans, remains the heart of pepperoni roll country, the dish can now be found from the tip of the Northern Panhandle to the southern coalfields and everywhere in between.
WV Living asked Candace Nelson, author of The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll, to put together a road trip to help adventurous eaters could sample a little bit what the state has to offer.
The best part? Pepperoni rolls are the perfect one-handed food, so you can eat while you drive.
Starting at the top of the state and eating our way through, our first stop is in Weirton. This family-owned and -operated bakery makes its rolls with soft, white yeast dough and offers three filling options: double pepperoni, pepperoni and cheese, and pepperoni and hot pepper cheese. If those aren’t enough rolls for you, finish it all off with one of their apricot, poppy seed, or Hungarian nut rolls. W 460 Park Drive, 304.748.4370
The largest producer of West Virginia pepperoni rolls, Chico Bakery uses a family recipe passed down through generations for its legendary Julia’s Pepperoni Rolls. The bakery churns out up to 10,000 pepperoni rolls per day in three varieties: pepperoni and provolone cheese, pepperoni and hot pepper cheese, and double-stuffed pepperoni. Look for them at convenience stores and grocery stores as well as West Virginia University athletic events. W 407 Beechurst Avenue, 304.292.9433 ext. 1183
Colasessano’s World Famous Pizza & Pepperoni Buns
This Fairmont institution’s pepperoni rolls are meal-sized: stuffed with five or six long sticks of pepperoni, split down the center, and topped with sauce, cheese, and peppers. Check out the framed photos on the walls featuring the many athletes, politicians, and locals who are Colasessano’s regulars. 141 Middletown Circle, 304.363.0571, 502 Pennsylvania Avenue, 304.363.9713
Country Club Bakery
The original birthplace of the commercial pepperoni roll, Country Club still makes its rolls the same way as in the 1920s and ’30s when Giuseppe Argiro came up with the recipe. Each roll is stuffed with three or four sticks of pepperoni, which are hand-cut daily from giant three-pound blocks. Many fans—like current owner Chris Pallotta—dress their rolls with Oliverio Italian Style Peppers, produced nearby, to give them a kick. 1211 Country Club Road, 304.363.5690
Abruzzino’s Italian Bakery
This bakery was the first to transition from a harder Italian bread to the softer, sweeter bread most commonly found in pepperoni rolls today. The white bread was not initially accepted by the traditional Italian bakeries in the area but, outside north central West Virginia, the softer bread quickly caught on. W 6517 Shinnston Pike, 304.592.0461
D’Annunzio’s Italian Bakery
Clarksburg is a city divided by pepperoni rolls. Some like hard bread, some like soft. Some like cheese inside, traditionalists prefer nothing but pepperoni. Those in the North View side of town are fans of D’Annunzio’s, which offers a traditional pepperoni roll with harder Italian bread and sticks of pepperoni. Loyalists recall when the bakery was called The Health Bread Company but had to change its name because the federal government claimed the name implied there was a health benefit from eating pepperoni rolls. 1909 Williams Avenue, 304.622.3492
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 that, too. That’s how the pepperoni roll with cheese was born, and other bakeries have since caught on. Home Industry now makes rolls with provolone or hot pepper cheese, as well as rolls with Oliverio peppers baked right inside. 128 South 3rd Street , 304.623.3384
Rogers & Mazza’s
Bridging the gap between the old-school traditional pepperoni roll and the modern, updated pepperoni roll is Rogers & Mazza’s. This bakery sells two brands of pepperoni rolls: Rogers & Mazza’s, which has a sweeter dough with sliced pepperoni and cheese, and Marty’s, which has stick pepperoni and a harder Italian bread. Marty’s Bakery, which had been a staple in the area since the 1950s, burned down in 1994, and the recipe was handed off to the owners of Rogers & Mazza’s. So, no matter what kind of roll you’re in the mood for, Rogers & Mazza’s has it. 304.622.6682
The oldest Italian bakery in the state, Tomaro’s Bakery has operated in Clarksburg for more than 100 years and was also an early manufacturer of pepperoni rolls. Its secret-ingredient recipe has never changed—it still features crusty Italian dough and sticks of pepperoni. Tomaro’s has started producing mini pepperoni rolls, though: bite-sized rolls with a single stick of pepperoni inside, perfect for hors d’oeuvres or tailgating. 411 North 4th Street, 304.622.0691
The Donut Shop
In the never-ending “sticks versus slices” debate, a third contender reigns supreme in the Buckhannon area: ground pepperoni. Pioneered by The Donut Shop, the pepperoni roll with ground pepperoni appeals to those who want a bit of pepperoni in every bite of their snack. Instead of folding sticks or slices into the dough, the shop adds a small mound of ground Hormel pepperoni into the center before baking, creating a pepperoni pocket from which the oils and spices of the meat can permeate the inside of the roll. 51 North Locust Street, 304.472.9328
The central part of the state is also known for pepperoni rolls with ramps. When ramps are in season, The Donut Shop in Buckhannon serves up a regular pepperoni roll with ramps, a hot pepper cheese pepperoni roll with ramps, a mozzarella cheese pepperoni roll with ramps, and an American cheese pepperoni roll with ramps. Bobbie’s in Beverly sells nearly a dozen kinds of pepperoni rolls, and during ramp season this includes ramps with hot pepper cheese and ramps with cheddar cheese. Dale Hawkins’ Fish Hawk Acres in Buckhannon adds caramelized ramps to its famous homemade pepperoni rolls.
JR’s Donut Castle
JR’s Donut Castle might specialize in donuts, but they churn out a pretty sweet pepperoni roll, too. Filling options include plain pepperoni, pepperoni with American cheese, pepperoni with pepper jack cheese, pepperoni and pizza sauce, and pepperoni with jalapeño sauce—all made with slices, not sticks. 3318 Emerson Avenue, 304.428.9097
Other Parkersburg Options
Parkersburg Brewing Co. serves up homemade pepperoni rolls, which you can wash down with one of their craft brews. 707 Market Street, 304.916.1502 Also stop by DiCarlo’s Pizza—yes, that’s the pizza shop that tops its pies with cold cheese—for its take on a pepperoni roll. 327 Juliana Street, 304.893.9885 Or try The Pizza Place for a version made with top-quality pepperoni imported from the Old Country. 2208 Dudley Avenue, 304.485.5601, 1410 Blizzard Drive, 304.485.7327
★ Bonus Stop ★
A Step in Time, Ranson
This Eastern Panhandle bakery is serving up authentic pepperoni rolls, hours away from the heart of pepperoni roll country. “Mama Jo’s Pepperoni Rolls” are made from a family bread recipe that had been passed down through generations. These soft and chewy rolls are filled with slices of pepperoni and cheese and topped with even more cheese to make for the perfect snack. 432 2nd Street. 304.535.8046
Keep On Rollin’
This is by no means a comprehensive list of pepperoni rolls in West Virginia. Tell us about your favorite—you can find us at @wvliving on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or shoot us a message at email@example.com.
If you want to learn more about West Virginia’s favorite food, check out Candace Nelson’s book The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll. This comprehensive history offers more than 100 photographs and countless recipes and recollections, telling the stories of the immigrants, business owners, and laborers who have developed and devoured this simple yet practical food. For more information, visit candacerosenelson.com/book.
written by Candace Nelson
photographed by Carla Witt Ford