West Virginia – 20369 Miles Driven.
Morgantown, West Virginia is a city best known for being home to West Virginia University. With any large college inevitably comes with it college football, and with that comes the all-American tradition of tailgating. I wish I could write about my tailgating experience, except owing to the rather chilly weather mine was cut prematurely short. Fortunately for me West Virginia also has another tradition, the pepperoni roll.
This simple sounding combination of bread and meat that sounds like it belongs in a gas station forecourt, has much more practical origins stemming back to early 20th century West Virginia. The rolls were something produced by small bakeries for immigrant Italian coal-miners to take with them to work that didn’t need refrigerating. In 1987 the USDA dropped a move to re-classify pepperoni roll bakeries as meat packers, which would have resulted in much stricter and costlier regulations that would have put many out of business. It was a battle lost by the USDA and a victory for the pepperoni roll.
I got my pepperoni roll fix at Phoenix Bakery, known for having some of the best in town. The bakery is owned by Tyler, Tracey, and Danny. They took it over 14 months ago when the previous owners decided to sell. It’s a homely feeling place, with the most incredible and enormous wood fired oven in the kitchen. The popular pepperoni rolls are a relatively new addition; the bakery also sells a wonderful assortment of freshly baked loaves, pastries, pizzas, and homemade soups.
Phoenix Bakery makes their rolls using rustic Italian style dough with olive oil. Once proved, pepperoni is stuffed inside and the small rolls are baked. Pepperoni roll purists would commend Phoenix Bakery for correctly using pepperoni sticks instead of slices, though perhaps not for also selling them with cheese. Because I’m not a pepperoni roll purist and they were so very small, I ordered one of each
I chose not to heat them up, and actually they really didn’t need to be. When the rolls are baked the fat from the pepperoni soaks into the dough, preventing the bread from drying out and adding flavour.
Pepperoni rolls may just be meat, bread, and cheese too if you’re breaking the rules, but you don’t need to be a miner to enjoy these very traditional, very practical little rolls.
Phoenix Bakery is located at; 89 Kingwood St, Morgantown, WV 26501. Telephone; +1 (304) 381-4772.