Pepperoni rolls are not only a yummy treat for your tummy guts, they are also as uniquely West Virginian as Babydog and the Mothman. As soon as I’m done writing this, we’re heading over to A Taste of Eggcellence in Gap Mills to pick some up – and we’re in a hurry because as owners Kelli and Brandon Eggleston tell us, they sell as many as 600 rolls every weekend! If by some chance you are one of the four people left in the world who are unfamiliar with pepperoni rolls, it is exactly what it sounds like – a roll stuffed with pepperoni.
They gained popularity in the early 1900’s after a coal miner named Giuseppe “Joseph” Argiro spotted his friend holding a pepperoni stick in one hand, and a piece of bread in the other. It was at that moment when inspiration struck Argiro. He said to himself, “you know what would be amazing? If my man could hold both of those tasty products in the same hand, and eat them simultaneously, that’s what!” And Argiro was right. By 1927, he had hung up his hard hat and opened the Country Club Bakery in Fairmont. Celebrated as the birthplace of the pepperoni roll, the Country Club Bakery is still operational today.
Outside the bakery is a historical marker that describes the pepperoni roll as a “West Virginia delicacy created by Italian families in Fairmont to feed local coal miners.”
However, the widespread availability of pepperoni rolls almost wasn’t the case. In 1987, the USDA wanted to re-classify pepperoni roll bakeries as “meat packers.” The costs associated with the increased requirements would have crippled most independent bakeries. Even now, bakeries in the Commonwealth of Virginia can sell them, but they can’t make them. This was almost the case in the Mountain State, as well, but for the saving grace of U. S. Senator Jay Rockefeller. Rockefeller advocated on behalf of independent bakeries, and convinced the Secretary of Agriculture that this reclassification would cost jobs and hurt West Virginians.
According to pepperoni-rolls.com, “Pepperoni rolls are a part of our state’s heritage – and Rockefeller saved them!”
Almost a century later, the Eggleston’s are carrying on West Virginia’s pepperoni roll tradition. In addition to their food truck and physical location in Monroe County, they are also a catering company and provide pepperoni rolls to both Manic Espresso in Lewisburg and Rainelle (Greenbrier County) and Bartley’s Meat Market in Covington (Alleghany County).
The Egglestons’ actually offer a nice variety of pepperoni rolls including traditional pepperoni in bread, mozzarella, swiss, and pepperjack. Now the original recipe does not have gooey cheese on the inside so it’s pretty cool that this bakery offers traditional rolls as well as cheese. Either way, it’s simply delicious. You can’t go wrong with a delicious pepperoni roll.
And while we’re on the topic of delicious pepperoni rolls, (and really, what else would you think this article is about if not delicious pepperoni rolls?) I would be remiss if I didn’t mention those served at the Dish Cafe in Daniels (Raleigh County). So whether you’re in Alleghany, Monroe, Greenbrier or Raleigh County, or really any other county in West Virginia, you’re covered. Delicious pepperoni rolls abound!
A Taste of Eggcellence is located at 19505 Sweet Springs Valley Road in Gap Mills. They serve breakfast and lunch every Friday and Saturday. Call them at 304-536-4166 and stay updated with them on facebook! Manic Espresso is located at 898 Maplewood Avenue in Lewisburg (across from the State Fairgrounds) and on Rt 60 in Rainelle; and Bartley’s Meat Market is located at 2530 Midland Trail in Covington.
– HashtagWV #141. April 2022.
Matthew Young has been a resident of Lewisburg, WV since December 2019. Prior to arriving in West Virginia, Matthew resided in the Philadelphia area, where his reporting, commentary, and editorials have been featured in numerous local and regional publications. Previously, he has served as a scriptwriter and consultant for television, radio, and various other short-form digital-media platforms, both within the United States and internationally. Since moving to the Mountain State, Matthew spent eighteen months as senior writer/managing editor for the West Virginia Daily News and is currently an active journalist with the West Virginia Press Association.