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Food & Drink United States

WEST VIRGINIA: THE PEPPERONI ROLL

May 21, 2020
Pepperoni Roll Recipe
“West Virginians enjoy and celebrate some native foods that many Americans don’t even know exist, much less eat — pawpaws and ramps come to mind. But the Mountain State is the bona fide birthplace of one beloved food item that has become much more familiar, in and out of the state, than these other homegrown delicacies — the pepperoni roll.

The concept is culinary simplicity — bread dough wrapped around pepperoni. And no one seems to dispute that its inventor was Giuseppe (Joseph) Argiro [pronounced AR-juh-row], who came from Calabria, Italy, in 1920 to work in the Clarksburg-area coal mines.


When he first traveled to America, Guiseppe Argiro left his pregnant wife, Teresa, behind. Within a few years, he had earned enough money to return to Italy and bring his wife and young son back with him to Clarksburg. Guiseppe soon left the mines and moved his growing family to Fairmont, where he started a soda pop bottling business. Then, in 1927, he opened People’s Bakery. The bakery was located on Robinson Street, and the family lived in the building behind it.

The inventive Argiro got the idea for the pepperoni roll directly from his experiences in the mines. A common lunch for immigrant miners, according to Giuseppe’s younger son, Frank Argiro, consisted of “a slab of bread, a chunk of pepperoni, and a bucket of water.” At some point between 1927 and 1938 — nobody seems to know exactly when — Giuseppe began placing the spicy pepperoni within the bread, and the pepperoni roll was born.

Combining the bread and pepperoni had a practical aspect: It turned a two-fisted eating experience into a convenient, one-handed operation. Evidently, Giuseppe Argiro knew he had devised a winner; he spent a good deal of time experimenting with the concept, changing bread dough recipes, pepperoni, and proportions until he was satisfied. He test-marketed the buns in beer halls where miners went to relax after their shifts.

At first, Giuseppe sold his pepperoni rolls for 45 cents a dozen to the owners of the beer halls and to local grocers, who in turn sold them for five cents apiece. They were immediately popular, and their popularity has never lagged.
-From the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History

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Ingredients that you will need:

  • 3.5 cups of gluten free flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup pepperoni
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

For the gluten-free version we substituted plain gluten-free flour for the regular flour that is called for in the recipe (a 1:1 ratio). We also used a spicy pepperoni because we love spicy, and substituted a bag of pre-shredded mozzarella cheese instead of using a ball of mozzarella.

You can find the rest of the steps at the Meals and Mile Markers website where the regular (non-gluten) recipe can be found!

PS. This goes great with some homemade marinara sauce!

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