FAIRMONT — Fairmont native Karen Shannon is “honoring her roots” with Pepperoni Chic, a pop-up restaurant serving the West Virginia staple, pepperoni rolls, and different Italian variations in Washington, D.C.
Shannon, born and raised in Fairmont, has since been working in the restaurant industry in Washington, D.C. for more than 30 years serving mostly Italian cuisine.
“In the back of my mind, I’ve always wanted to do something with pepperoni rolls,” Shannon said. “I’ve had an active plan in my head for at least seven or eight years that I wanted to introduce the pepperoni roll to Washington, D.C. and honor my Italian American heritage from Fairmont combining it with the more authentic Italian cuisine from Calabria.”
Shannon said she hadn’t been able to find the whole “brick and mortar” she imagined for her idea, but an opportunity came forward to open a pop-up restaurant.
“This opportunity came along for this temporary place until the end of the year,” Shannon said. “I wanted to introduce the concept to Washington and just see if they were as crazy about pepperoni rolls as all of our Fairmont and West Virginians are.”
So far, Shannon said the verdict has been a very positive response in the area, intriguing those who have never heard of a pepperoni roll before.
“They come in and say ‘Hey, what’s this all about? Give me the story,’” Shannon said. “They love the story of the coal miners, and the invention of the pepperoni roll. They think it’s just great. So far people who have tried it for the very first time have had a good response.”
Pepperoni Chic’s menu consists of traditional pepperoni rolls, chic pepperoni rolls with a unique variation, vegetarian pepperoni-less rolls, salads, pastas and dessert.
“The Joan and the William Joseph are the most popular,” Shannon said. “The William Joseph in Fairmont would be like if you said you wanted everything on it. It has the sauce and the peppers and the provolone cheese.”
The Joan has provolone and peppers in tomato sauce.
Shannon said she serves a lot of variations that are popular among her guests including pepperoni rolls that feature eggplant, caramelized onions and gorgonzola cheese.
“We make the dough here, and our own peppers and sauce,” Shannon said. “Everything is really freshly made, and our products have been received very well so far.”
Even West Virginia natives are traveling to visit Pepperoni Chic for an authentic pepperoni roll.
“I’ve had people drive in as far as an hour and a half outside of D.C. because they heard about them,” Shannon said. “It’s easier than driving four hours to Fairmont. I’ve had West Virginia people every weekend, either originally from West Virginia or went to WVU. I’m always very sensitive to those West Virginia people who come in because they have these wonderful childhood memories, so you want to make sure you don’t disappoint them. I always want to honor that and their childhood memories.”
Shannon hopes to expand Pepperoni Chic at the end of her pop-up era.
“Right now it’s mostly carry out. My original plan with this concept was to have a much bigger place with a bar that serves wine and beer, and everything,” Shannon said. “I could have more pastas and more dishes authentic to Calabria that are historically correct and what they are cooking there now. I’m always looking for that larger place.”
Shannon said her main idea behind this pop-up restaurant was to honor her heritage.
“I feel like I am honoring my Italian heritage and my Italian American upbringing in Fairmont by trying to combine both,” Shannon said. “Pepperoni rolls are the thing that’s drawing everyone in with its uniqueness. This was a great opportunity to introduce and showcase the iconic pepperoni rolls of Fairmont, West Virginia. You all know how they are supposed to taste.”
Email Kaitlyn Neff at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @kneffTWV.