The Invention of Pizza Rolls

If you’re in the mood for pizza, but don’t really want to eat or share an entire pie, pizza rolls are a perfectly sized treat to fulfill your craving.

The history of who invented pizza rolls is difficult to pin down, but two particular accounts stand out.

Jeno Paulucci vs. Giuseppe Aguro

Pizza rolls are notoriously linked to the store-bought squares sold under the Totino’s® brand. Started by Jeno Paulucci, the product was the result of Palucci replacing the traditional filling used in a Chinese egg roll with pizza toppings. The product was allegedly created in the 1960s.

Paulucci was the founder of Chun King, which specialized in the production of packaged Chinese dishes like chop suey, chow mein and egg rolls. He essentially created a pizza egg roll, which is now best known as a pizza roll.

Paulucci created Jeno’s, an Italian frozen-food company, and was packing lasagna and garlic bread when he created the pizza roll. Eventually, Jeno’s was sold to Pillsbury and repackaged under the name Totino’s® in the 1980s.

Another possible answer to when pizza rolls were invented is the 1920s. The pepperoni roll was first sold by Giuseppe Agiro in Fairmont, West Virginia. The rolls were a lunch option for coal miners who were frequently seen eating a sausage in one hand and bread roll in another; so Agiro decided to put them together.

Originally, the roll contained only pepperoni and did not have to be refrigerated. It was a great option for workers who did not have anywhere to store their meals. Over time, other variations contained cheese, peppers and ground beef.

In certain areas of the Midwest, like Ohio and West Virginia, variations of the pepperoni roll are still sold in bakeries. The U.S. military also uses a version of the pepperoni roll as one of their “meals, ready to eat” (MREs).

The Howie Roll is somewhat inspired by the traditional pepperoni roll sold in the 1920s. The rolls are prepared with traditional pizza dough and then baked to perfection with cheese and pepperoni, chicken or steak.