CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The storied history of the pepperoni roll is well known in West Virginia.
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 later moved to Fairmont and opened Country Club 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 stores and bakeries across West Virginia religiously carry the beloved pepperoni roll.
Colasessano's rivals the typical pepperoni roll, though. Selling pizza and "pepperoni buns," the 50-plus-year eatery has locations in Fairmont and Morgantown.
"Our pepperoni buns are different. They're big. We put stick pepperoni in - some used ground pepperoni or slice. We use the stick pepperoni. Ours are big and more like a sandwich - slice them open, add 'bun' sauce, sweet Oliverio peppers and provolone cheese," said Carrie Menas, owner of Colasessano's. "That's the only cheese we're permitted to use. It's 100 percent provolone."
While Colasessano's has been around for more than 50 years, the Menas family bought the company 10 years ago this month from the Colasessano's.
"We were running a small convenient store. We wanted a challenge, so we purchased it," Carrie said.
Carrie and her husband, John, bought the downtown location of Colasessano's. Mr. Colasessano ran his business out of that store for five days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. When Carrie and John took over, they also decided to open up a dining area, which "took off," according to the couple. They also expanded the menu with sandwiches, salads, appetizers, beer, wine and more.
About five years ago, Colasessano's opened another location at the Middletown Mall, where it, too, included a dining area. And about two years ago, the family opened a third and final location in Morgantown.
"Under our agreement, we agreed to keep the original recipe for the pizza and pepperoni rolls," Carrie said.
And it continues to sell.