On the Road

Italy in Marion County, West Virginia

By: The Local Palate

Pizza, pasta, and pepperoni rolls

Marion County in north-central West Virginia is a surprising crossroads of Italian cuisine and culture. In the early 1900s, the area was a hub for coal mining, leading thousands of Italian immigrants and their culinary traditions to Marion County.

This influx led to delicious cuisine and rich cultural traditions that endure today. Many of these classic dishes were popularized with an added Appalachian flare throughout the years, and they can still be enjoyed at the area’s local restaurants.

One of the most delectable ways those in Marion County celebrate their Italian roots is with pepperoni rolls. Pepperoni rolls have become one of the little-known treasures of West Virginia from an idea that developed deep in the Marion County coal mines in the 1920s.

Sticks of pepperoni and bread were staples for miners to take underground for their grueling workdays. It wasn’t long before Giuseppe “Joseph” Argiro, an Italian immigrant and coal miner, decided to bake the two foods for a more convenient and satisfying lunch.

The pepperoni roll became so popular with Argiro’s fellow miners that he quit the coal mines and opened Country Club Bakery in 1927.

The classic pepperoni roll is made of a soft white yeast bread roll with pepperoni baked in the middle. During baking, the fats in the pepperoni melt, resulting in a spicy oil that infuses into the bread.

Embellished with cheese (shredded mozzarella or provolone) or filled with Italian-style peppers, each chef has their unique recipe. Try them all in the “Pepperoni Roll Capital of the World.” 

Additionally, Marion County is home to many family-owned Italian restaurants. Voted Best Italian Restaurant in 2021 Best of West Virginia, Muriale’s Italian Kitchen has been crafting authentic Italian meals for Marion County since 1969.

Muriale’s menu features recipes that have been passed down over many generations. Aunt Mary’s meat lasagna and the simple, yet popular, spaghetti and meatballs which was named one of the best pasta dishes in the country by Food Network. 

From world-famous pizza pies to a classic Italian delicatessen experience, and of course, don’t forget about delectable desserts like cannolis and biscottis.

For a real taste of Italy in Appalachia, plan a trip around the Feast of the Seven Fishes Festival with its Festival Cucina (cooking school) or the West Virginia Three Rivers Festival featuring the Pepperoni Roll Eating World Championship. Request a copy of the free Marion County Travel Guide to help plan your upcoming trip. 

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