Bari Pizzaria is the latest restaurant to roll out a dish that, while popular in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and parts of eastern Ohio, has yet to gain traction in Columbus.
The Galloway eatery recently introduced the pepperoni roll, a hand-held treat that looks like it sounds: pepperoni and cheese baked into soft dough.
"Nobody in this area makes them and I said, 'Let's try it'," said Vince Cordi, who owns the restaurant with Derek Owens.
Cordi said he's doing things a little different. He cooks the rolls individually in specialized baking pans, which leaves a groove in the center, a perfect spot for a little tomato sauce.
"When it comes out of the oven, it looks just like a cinnamon roll," he said.
Bari uses premium ingredients: a provolone-mozzarella blend from Grande, slices of locally made Ezzo pepperoni -- not the pepperoni stick common in other versions -- and hand-tossed dough. The rolls cost $6.75 for six pieces.
Cordi said the pepperoni rolls are part of an emerging menu upgrade that includes, among other things, gluten-free pasta dishes and pizza, fried ravioli and a 7-pound "mammoth" pizza.
He's been handing the rolls out to customers for feedback.
"Everybody's who's trying it has been liking it," said Cordi, whose restaurant is located at 946 Galloway Road.
Legend has it the pepperoni roll dates back to 1927, when Giuseppe "Joseph" Argiro created the savory bites at the County Club Bakery in Fairmont, W.Va.
They were used as a lunch option for coal miners, but quickly spread to parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Ohio.
And yet, with such simple ingredients -- and ones that seem to be enjoyed by scores of pizza lovers -- the pepperoni roll just hasn't caught on locally.
Local food blogger Jim Ellison, the CMH Gourmand, said it's befuddling situation, considering there are so many West Virginia transplants in central Ohio. Even in parts of coal country in eastern Ohio, they're important sustenance.
"And once you get about 20 minutes into the state, you don't know they exist," he said.
Only a handful of local eateries offer pepperoni rolls on the menu.
The Pizza Joint, formerly Gumby's in the University District, is one of them, where the rolls are $1.50 each and 75 cents on Wednesdays.
"We don't get a lot of orders in for pepperoni rolls, but when we do, it's a big order," manager Brittany Bennett said. "I've had people who came from out of town and said they only came in to get our pepperoni rolls."
They were part of the business plan at Omega Artisan Breads before the bakery opened 10 years ago in the North Market, owner Amy Lozier said.
"I thought it was a really good idea, something easy to do," she said.
She also uses sliced Ezzo pepperoni and a provolone-romano cheese blend baked in Florence-style bread that has a little crunch to it. The rolls are $5.95 apiece, and a pretty substantial meal, she said.
A Columbus native, Lozier thought it had tremendous appeal to the midday crowd looking for an inexpensive quick bite.
"You can eat it with one hand," she said. "They're good. Ours are really good. It's an easy thing to eat."
Ellison said it's something easy to produce, even in an electric kitchen.
"I'd love to see it in more places in Columbus," he said. "It's great bar-food option."
But they're not fail proof, he said.
"The key to having a good pepperoni roll is to have good bread," he said. "It's like a sandwich: If you don't have good bread it doesn't matter what is in it. It's not going to come together right."