Every time Katt Schuler makes pepperoni rolls, she reconnects with her past and unites rural and urban communities from Maine to Georgia, celebrating Appalachian culture.
These are way more than snacks.
And with business booming and some help from Honeycomb Credit, she hopes to open her own shop in Lawrenceville by January 2020.
Rolling Pepperoni’s storefront at 6140 Butler St. is already 73 percent funded.
Schuler, a native of Elkins, WV, grew up eating pepperoni rolls. They’re a staple of the West Virginia diet.
When she moved to Pittsburgh to attend college, she started baking the doughy treat to combat homesickness and fuel late-night study sessions. Packed with protein and carbohydrates, pepperoni rolls are a popular grab-and-go meal for athletes, laborers and people in need of a quick energy boost.
She’d share the rolls with friends, and in between bites they’d often tell her stories about their own affiliation with the Mountain State’s culinary tradition. Eventually, she experimented with different recipes, creating her own signature brand. The dough is made with local honey and something called “poolish,” a fermentation starter that gives the bread more flavor and a chewy texture.
The spicy pork pepperoni she uses is cured for six weeks.
In 2015, Schuler moved her home-based operation to a commercially certified kitchen at Holy Spirit Lyceum in Millvale and began wholesale distributing to area businesses, including Double L Bar, The Wheel Mill and 52nd Street Market.
Within a year, she quit her day job to focus on food full-time, churning out up to 500 rolls a week. She hit the farmer’s market circuit, selling out of her stash at each stop, and catered private events and fundraisers.
Eventually, Rolling Pepperoni moved to Lawrenceville, sharing a Butler Street space with Piebird.
She has since expanded and refined her offerings. In addition to the traditional pepperoni roll, Schuler now sells rolls with hot Oliverio peppers, vegan options stuffed with marinated artichokes and thyme, and sweet versions.
“We try to push the boundaries of what a pepperoni roll is,” she says.
Currently, the rolls are available for pick-up orders placed by phone, online or at 17 area businesses — where they have a shelf life of about a week. During the baking process, the fats in the pepperoni melt and infuse the bread with oil, creating a natural preservative.
By opening her own place, Schuler will be able to serve items straight out of the oven and give customers a place to sit and share their stories. And this month, Rolling Pepperoni will release “Rolling Pepperoni Unwrapped,” a coffee table book featuring customer experiences.
“Pepperoni rolls are full of memories in a really magical way,” she says. “Family and tradition and community are so important.”