Somewhere South with Chef Vivian Howard

The Pepperoni Roll as Poetry

For her pepperoni roll exploration in West Virginia, Vivian brought along  her friend, writer and West Virginia native Courtney Balestier. Balestier wrote a beautiful ode to the culinary tradition in an essay she calls “Poetry of the Pepperoni Roll.”

Born out of a talk Balestier gave at the 2016 Appalachian Food Summit, you can find the essay in full on her website here, and we suggest you spend a little time reading it. 

In a line that echoes themes we tease out in the show, Balestier exudes an enthusiasm for this particular hand pie shared by her fellow West Virginians: “The pepperoni roll, really, is a poem: self-contained, complete, economical in every sense of the word.” She goes on to explain a rich history, from the large number of Italian immigrants in West Virginia mines that led to the Italian consulate opening a temporary office in the small Appalachian state to a modern-day battle with Sheetz gas station over a less superior, machine-made version of the roll available via their touch-screen menu. Plus, Balestier compares the merits of pepperoni stick versus slice, cheese versus meat-only. 

Hungry yet? A trip to West Virginia will cure these pepperoni roll pangs. We took a page (literally) from Candace Nelson’s book, “The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll,” for a list of all the bakeries who make West Virginia’s famed food (in-state, of course). They are listed as they appear in Nelson’s book. Many of them offer online ordering and shipping!

Country Club Bakery | Fairmont, W.Va.

Tomaro’s Bakery | Clarksburg, W.Va.

D’Annunzio’s Italian Bakery | Clarksburg, W.Va. & Longs, SC

Abruzzino’s Italian Bakery  | Gypsy, W.Va.

Chico Bakery | Morgantown, W.Va.

Colasessano’s | Fairmont, W.Va.

Rogers and Mazza Italian Bakery  | Mt. Clare, W.Va.

Home Industry Bakery | Clarksburg, W.Va.

The Donut Shop | Buckhannon, W.Va.

JR’s Donut Castle | Parkersburg, W.Va.