Pittsburgh sits in the heart of Appalachia and right next to West Virginia, but the traditional comfort foods of the Mountain State are barely present here. Most Pittsburghers are unaware of dishes like leather britches (string beans dried on rope until leathery).
But one local bakery is spreading the word about West Virginian cuisine through its most famous and accessible food: pepperoni rolls.
“I want to share the West Virginia Appalachia with the rest of Appalachia,” says Katt Schuler, owner of Rolling Pepperoni, which operates out of Holy Spirit Parish’s kitchen, in Millvale.
Schuler hails from Randolph County, W.Va., and says she wanted to emulate the pepperoni rolls of her youth, but do so with high-quality ingredients. Parma Sausage makes the pepperoni for her rolls, and she uses local honey from Hannah’s Honey to sweeten the dough.
The rolls are light, with the chewiness a good pepperoni roll needs. The spiciness from the dried sausage is balanced out by the subtle sweetness of the dough. If you’re lucky, Schuler and her partners might bake in peppers or onions from Millvale’s community garden.
Rolls can be eaten cold or, better still, warmed up. Schuler recommends heating them for three to four minutes in a 375-degree oven. “That way,” she says, “the pepperoni grease can soak into the bread. When you smell them, they’re done.”
Rolling Pepperoni rolls can be purchased at the Bloomfield and Fox Chapel farmers’ markets, the 52nd Street Market, in Lawrenceville, and the Double L Bar, in Millvale.
Over its first year, Schuler says, the company succeeded thanks to the Millvale community, and she hopes to pay that back through sharing a bit of her roots. “I started this to say, ‘What can I do to share my culture and what home means to me,’ and share that with rest of the world.”