CHARLESTON, W.Va. - In an intrastate war for claiming the title of West Virginia's official food, the pepperoni roll seems to have pulled ahead of other contenders like slawdogs, ramps, and Tudor's biscuits.
House lawmakers introduced a resolution to declare the pepperoni roll as the official state food Tuesday. Joshua Nelson, R-Boone, was the sponsor.
"It was brought to my attention by some people from up north, and they told me the history of the pepperoni roll, and I started to dig and couldn't find a state food, so I came up with the idea," Nelson said.
"We're catching some flak because people are saying 'don't you have more important things to do?' Well, yes, we do. But we decided that with all the problems, it's important to take a break and take a look at our history and celebrate unity as West Virginians and celebrate what's been developed in our state and link back to that history."
North-Central West Virginia is the home of the pepperoni roll. Giuseppe Argiro, who came from Italy in 1920 to work in a Clarksburg-area coal mine, invented the tasty snack, according to the state Division of Culture and History.
Argiro would later move to Fairmont and open a bakery. He drew on experience in the coal mines, where a common lunch for immigrant miners was "a slab of bread, a chunk of pepperoni, and a bucket of water."
Argiro simply placed a piece of spicy pepperoni inside the bread, and what we know as the pepperoni roll was born sometime between 1927 and 1938.
What used to be a two-handed eating experience turned into a convenient, utilitarian, but tasty, lunch for coal miners, and ultimately the general public. Gas stations, convenience stories and bakeries across West Virginia religiously carry the beloved pepperoni roll.
"I think it's very prevalent in the north-central part of the state, so it's interesting that it's been sponsored from the southern area," said Steve Leach, vice president of organization and development for Pierpont Community & Technical College.
"Any time we can get recognition for the state for anything good for good ole West Virginia is good," he added.
Leach, who was not eating a pepperoni roll at the Capitol cafeteria, did have involvement with a pepperoni roll-eating contest once.
"Our college was a main sponsor of the event, and we had eating champions from all over -- people who do hotdog eating contests -- to participate."