Skip Navigation

“Like They Did in Italy”

The Ricottillis of Barbour County

By Lori Marie DiBacco

apple butter making
The Ricottilli family of Barbour County gather to make apple butter at a reunion in 2002. Here, Adeline, the supervisor, dips the apple butter from a copper kettle and pours it into jars.


As the morning fog rolled out of the valley, the scent of wood smoke began to fill the air. Two copper kettles stood over open fires in the morning light, and the slow process of making apple butter began. The Ricottilli family had gathered again for a reunion at their homeplace in the Talbott community of Barbour County, to carry on traditions that are a mix of West Virginia farm life and old-world Italy. For the Ricottillis, this combination of cultures has been a fact of life for more than 80 years.

The family worked together to accomplish the task at hand, much as they have for several generations. Good-natured teasing flowed easily between those stirring the kettles and those temporarily on the sidelines. As one person tired, another stepped in to take over. What was once a matter of necessity has become a time of fellowship and a chance to pass along traditions to a younger generation.

To gain a clearer picture of this family and their history, I visited the homeplace one evening with three of the siblings. Patsy (short for Pasquale) Ricottilli, age 75, lives on the property with his wife Sally, 58, in a new home they built in 1985. Two of Patsy’s sisters, Amelia Derico and Lucy Palmisano, were visiting there, as well. Lucy, age 83, came over from her home in Elkins. She walked around the property with us but left early in the evening. Amelia, age 81, visited from the farm she shares with her husband, Guy, in the Mt. Nebo community of Upshur County.

As we walked down the hill from Patsy and Sally’s house to see the rest of the property, stories of growing up there began to flow. Laughter erupted as Patsy, Amelia, and Lucy shared their experiences with me. They occasionally interrupted one another to give “their side of the story” or fill in details that the other had forgotten.

You can read the rest of this article in this issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.