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Pepperoni Roll article from the Charleston Daily Mail
Charleston, West Virginia
Wednesday January 24, 2007
Steven Keith, Daily Mail Food Writer

Gourmet magazine celebrates the West Virginia pepperoni roll
by Steven Keith

I guess it's true when they say you'd better watch what you wish for.

Each time I discover a great new restaurant or talented chef in West Virginia, I wonder when some big-time national food magazine will pick up on the culinary renaissance slowly taking place in our mountains. There are so many more great restaurants here -- a story I've even pitched to a few such publications.

But it's a story that has remained largely untold. Until now.

The current issue of Gourmet magazine features several West Virginia restaurants and bakeries in a flattering two-page spread with multiple photos of -- pepperoni rolls.

My immediate reaction was one we've all had after being burned by the repeated perpetuation of "hillbilly" stereotypes. They finally do a story on West Virginia food and it's just to poke fun. Good grief.

But I was delighted to discover that wasn't the case at all. "You don't need a passport to get incredible pepperoni rolls," the index boasts. "Go to West Virginia."

In its monthly Road Food column -- this one titled, "Alto Appalachia: The green rolling hills of West Virginia may not scream ‘Italian,' but the region's sausage sandwiches and pepperoni rolls say it loud and clear" -- husband-wife team Jane and Michael Stern wax poetic about the storied state specialty. They truly loved the things.

After learning how our "savory snack of choice" is made, the two set out to sample as many as they could find throughout north central West Virginia. Their favorite came from Tomaro's, a circa-1914 neighborhood bakery in Clarksburg whose rolls they described as "insanely opulent" made with "stupendous" bread that is best enjoyed soon out of the oven. They also got a kick out of the store's catchy slogan that reminds customers to "Eat Tomaro's Bread Today."

After sampling similar rolls at Fairmont's Country Club Bakery (where it is said the original rolls were invented for coal miners to take underground for a filling, easily portable lunch) and S&B Bakery, a little roadside spot in Mannington, the Sterns also tried out several of the area's pizza and Italian restaurants, marveling at their experience at each one.

Among their stops were Julio's Cafe in Clarksburg, DiCarlo's Famous Pizza in Wheeling, Oliverio's Ristorante in Bridgeport and a food cart outside Oliverio's Cash & Carry in Clarksburg, where they had this to say: "If there is a more perfect sausage sandwich somewhere on this planet, we would love to try it."

(Guess who's driving by Clarksburg Friday on his way up to Morgantown for Lakeview Resort's big food and wine fest? And guess where he's now stopping for lunch that day?!)

It's a nice article that offers a national audience a not-often-heard positive view of our state, its people and the food we enjoy. If you don't subscribe, pick up a copy and check it out.

* * *

In a bizarre coincidence, the day before I ran across the above-mentioned story a thoughtful neighbor (thanks John!) brought over a couple of fresh-made pepperoni rolls that he'd picked up earlier that day at Colasessano's in Fairmont.

Although Colasessano's wasn't featured in the Gourmet article, it easily could have been. More substantial than the typical hand-held roll, these overstuffed, gussied-up sandwiches -- ordered "with the works" -- were divine. Popping them into a hot oven for 15 minutes produced fresh hoagie-style buns stuffed with chewy twigs of pepperoni, sauteed peppers, perfect (perfect!) marinara and a mound of melted mozzarella.

My wife and I just kept taking bite after bite, only pausing long enough for an occasional, "Oh, this is sooo good!"

We'll be getting our own next time we're up that way can you can, too. Colasessano's is located at 506 Pennsylvania Ave. in Fairmont. Call 363-9713 for store hours and more information.

* * *

Although there are now many variations of the pepperoni roll, a quick Internet search turned up the exact specifications of "the original" version, created and still made at Country Club Bakery in Fairmont.

And I'm not kidding when I say specifications.

"Bob Heffner's Pepperoni Roll Homepage" shows an elaborate photo illustration of a pepperoni roll shown at various angles -- with exact measurements noted. Turns out the real deal is PRECISELY 5.5 inches long, 2.5 inches tall and 2.5 inches wide. It contains three strips of pepperoni inside, each a quarter-inch by quarter-inch square and exactly 4 inches long. And the whole roll has an average circumference of 7.85 inches and weighs in at 75 grams.

Now you know.

The same site also contains a detailed description of such a roll, right down to the trademark orangish-red grease spot that settles on either end. You can check it out yourself at

Contact writer Steven Keith at or 348-1721.

link to story at the Charleston Daily Mail site


Back to Bob Heffner's Pepperoni Roll Homepage