|Place of origin||United States|
|Region or state||West Virginia|
|Main ingredients||White bread, pepperoni|
The pepperoni roll is a snack popular in West Virginia and some nearby regions of the Appalachian Mountains such as Western Pennsylvania, Western Maryland, and Appalachian Ohio. It is ubiquitous in West Virginia, particularly in convenience stores, and is arguably the food most closely associated with the state.
The classic pepperoni roll consists of a fairly soft white yeast bread roll with pepperoni baked in the middle. During baking, the fats in the pepperoni (which are hard at room temperature) melt, resulting in a spicy oil suffusing into the bread. Pepperoni rolls are typically eaten as a snack or as the main dish of a lunch either unheated or slightly warmed.
The pepperoni roll was first sold by Giuseppe "Joseph" Argiro at the Country Club Bakery in Fairmont, West Virginia, in 1927. The rolls originated as a lunch option for the coal miners of north-central West Virginia in the first half of the 20th century. Pepperoni rolls do not need to be refrigerated for storage and could readily be packed for lunch by miners. Pepperoni and other Italian foods became popular in north-central West Virginia in the early 20th century, when the booming mines and railroads attracted many immigrants from Italy. The pepperoni roll bears a resemblance to the pasty and sausage roll, which originated in the mining communities of Great Britain, as well as the Italian calzone.
Variations on the original pepperoni roll may contain different types of cheese, peppers, etc. The pepperoni within can take several forms, including a single stick, several folded slices, or shredded or ground meat.
Pepperoni rolls faced a legal challenge in 1987 when the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed reclassifying bakeries that manufactured the rolls as meat processing plants, thus subjecting them to stricter regulations. The bakery owners said, however, that the costs of meeting the new regulations would put them out of business. The USDA's proposal was quashed after Jay Rockefeller, U.S. Senator for West Virginia, intervened.
In the early 2000s, the U.S. military began including a version of the pepperoni roll in one of the MREs (Meals, Ready-to-Eat) provided to troops. In the late 2000s, the U.S. Army changed the pepperoni roll to its First Strike Ration. These rations are designed for light infantry, airborne, and special forces during a typical 72-hour patrol. The pepperoni roll's compact size and comparatively high nutritional return make it an ideal ration for these patrols. These rations were extensively employed during Operation Enduring Freedom. The military's rolls are made by a North Carolina company.