An Ode to Pepperoni Rolls – Chef Ambassador Story

Written by Chef Ambassador, Matt Welsch.

I’ve often said, “there are many beautiful places in the world, and West Virginia is one of them.” But I’ll tell you something that those other beautiful places don’t have – and the absence is glaring – pepperoni rolls.

Now, I feel like it’s a well-worn road here to say that everyone knows about pepperoni rolls and how they were developed by our mining immigrants as a stable staple of lunch pails, one that didn’t need refrigerated, and one that had both the flavor and the fuel to keep WV’s hard-working forefathers digging deep into the earth. Everyone knows that, right?

Well, here’s something you may not know, West Virginia is more than coal mines. We didn’t stop making history on Blair Mountain in 1921, and we didn’t stop making pepperoni rolls as we’ve stepped into the 21st century.

The core of a pepperoni roll is quite obviously the pepperoni. But what lays outside that core, and even what shacks up with the pepperoni in that core, can vary wildly.

Pepperoni pundits will argue until red in the face about stick pepperoni versus sliced, and the introduction of cheese, or pickled peppers, or god forbid – sauce. The dough can be sweet, it can be hearty, it can be cheesy, or bready, or crusted with butter and herbs. Pepperoni rolls can be the size of your thumb. Or they can be the size of your forearm.

None of all that matters.

What matters most is pepperoni rolls feed you. They fill your tummy. They delight your palette. They are simple, yes, but they are good. We don’t need to be puttin’ on airs to get the job done here, folks. Oftentimes the best things are beautiful in their simplicity.

The real crime, and one I think all of us here in WV are working to eradicate, is that pepperoni rolls aren’t universally known in all of their ways, shapes, forms or fashions.

Perhaps in the modern day of gluten intolerance and a focus on healthy diets and lean proteins, you don’t think a dish made up of bread and fatty cured sausage has a place. But I’m here to tell you the pepperoni roll is your friend. As historically significant as it was a hundred years ago, it is still here help you. To get your through your day. And to make you smile.

When is a good time to try your first pepperoni roll, or just to have your next one? Well, I’d say right now. Get to a small gas station or a farmer’s market or Nana’s kitchen. Sit a spell. Have a conversation, take a deep breath, and enjoy.

Meet The Chef Ambassador

Matt Welsch

 Owner & Executive Chef of Vagabond Kitchen

Matt Welsch is an award-winning chef and restaurateur in Wheeling, West Virginia. He began his culinary journey in the dish pits of his college campus and has manned the lines in kitchens all over the country as he rode his motorcycle along blue highways to sample the culinary diversity of the United States.

Chef Matt has been featured on Guy’s Grocery Games, The Cast Iron Cookoff, West Virginia’s 40 Under 40, Taste WV Magazine, WV Living and Bon Appetit. He believes simply that everyone deserves to eat good food. Chef Matt currently serves up flavorful creations as the Owner and Executive Chef of Vagabond Kitchen.

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This post was last updated on August 15, 2022