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WVU Press publishes a history of the pepperoni roll by Candace Nelson, social media editor at WVU

The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll book cover

West Virginia University Press has published The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll by Candace Nelson.

The pepperoni roll, a soft bread roll with pepperoni baked in the middle, originated in the coal mining areas of north central West Virginia when Italian immigrants invented a food that could be eaten easily underground.

This spicy snack soon found its way out of the mines and into bakeries, bread companies, restaurants, and event venues around the state, often with additional ingredients like cheese, red sauce, or peppers added to this humble food staple.

As the pepperoni roll’s reputation moves beyond the borders of West Virginia, this food continues to embody the culinary culture of its home state. It is now found at the center of bake offs, eating contests, festivals, as a gourmet item on local menus, and even on a bill in the state’s legislature.

The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll is a comprehensive history of the unofficial state food of West Virginia. With over 100 photographs and countless recipes and recollections, it tells the story of the immigrants, business owners, laborers, and citizens who have developed and devoured this simple yet practical food since its invention.

Emily Hilliard, West Virginia State Folklorist, has written a foreword for the book, in which she announces “Candace Nelson offers us an insider’s take on the pepperoni roll, exploring the history, science, great pepperoni roll debates (sticks v. slices, Sheetz v. the people of West Virginia), cultural context, regional variations, and adaptations as only a native could. As the nature of my work as state folklorist takes me all over West Virginia, hungry both in appetite and in my quest to sample local traditional culture—including foods—I am grateful to have such a guide.”

About the author:

Candace Nelson, a West Virginia native, is the social media editor at West Virginia University. She writes Candace Lately, a blog that focuses on food culture in West Virginia, and resides in Morgantown.

Foreword writer:

Emily Hilliard is the West Virginia state folklorist. Her food writing has been featured by NPR, the Southern Foodways Alliance, Lucky Peach, and the Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, among others. She writes the pie blog Nothing in the House at

Book signings and appearances by author:

May 26, 5 pm

Three Rivers Festival, Fairmont

June 10, 4 pm

Weirton Book Company,Weirton

June 15

Taylor Books at 6 p.m. in Charleston

June 17, 1 pm

Barnes & Noble, Morgantown

June 20, 5:30-8:30 pm

Rolls on the River, Big Brothers Big Sisters fundraiser, Charleston

June 24, 12 pm

Empire Books and News, Huntington

July 8, 5 pm

Town Run Brewing, hosted by Four Seasons Books, Shepherdstown

July 30, TBA

The Great Pepperoni Roll Cook-Off


September 1, 2, 3

West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival

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