If you've spent any time in West Virginia, portions of western Pennsylvania or eastern Ohio, then you've likely heard of the greatness that is the pepperoni roll. Made with soft, slightly sweet bread, folded around slices or matchsticks of salty pepperoni, and sometimes with cheese, the rolls were a staple of childhood snacking. You came home from school, threw a pepperoni roll in the microwave for three or four seconds, popped the top on a cold jar of Ragu spaghetti sauce and proceeded to paint your face in red.
If you were a college student in the area, you've definitely and drunkenly stumbled out of a convenience store with a pepperoni roll in a plastic bag. If you were a sports fan, you definitely indulged the pepperoni roll at tailgating events. And if you've experienced the pepperoni roll and enjoyed it, you'll be happy to hear the baked good will be a cornerstone of Jonathon and Christine Erdeljac's new restaurant, Kessler Park Eating House in Oak Cliff.
After three years of running Jonathon's Oak Cliff, the couple decided it was time to branch out. An appearance on the Food Network's Food Court Wars required the owners to spend a week away from the restaurant they've rarely left since it opened. Convinced they'd return to ruins, they were surprised to find the restaurant hadn't burned to the ground. It was still operating, even. So they decided it was time to work even harder and open a second restaurant.
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There will be more than pepperoni rolls at Kessler Park Eating House, but they provide a good framework for what Erdeljac says he's trying to accomplish. "My parents are from Farmington," Erdeljac says. And even though they moved him to Houston relatively young, he went back to West Virginia often to visit family and eat pepperoni rolls. "I know all the words to 'Country Roads,'" he joked.
The new restaurant, which will be located on the corner of Beckley Avenue near Greenbriar Lane in the old Mamma Connie's spot, is huge compared to their first restaurant. In fact, the kitchen at Kessler Park Eating House is larger than the kitchen and dining room at Jonathon's combined, which will give Erdeljac the space he needs for a second oven to bake those rolls and other goods.
He's also planning on setting up a pasta station. Pierogis, potato-filled dumplings often sautéed with butter and onions, will join simple butter noodles, and fresh pasta dressed in a simple Bolognese.
Erdeljac says he hopes he'll have the new restaurant open by the end of the summer, though he admits there's still a lot of work to do on the building. Still, unlike Jonathon's Oak Cliff, which he and his wife built out themselves, their newest landlord is helping them out with contractors. Three years ago the Erdeljacs were just budding restaurateurs, but now they're seasoned and desirable tenants with a great reputation. "We're older and wiser," Erdeljac says. And they're poised to bring a quirky, rural style of cooking to Dallas that's completely unique here.