The first place he ever ate them was the Osteria al Ritrovo del Platano. We stopped by one day when passing to look at the menu. He kept pestering to go there and try them. Pester power won and we went, thinking he just wanted to try them out of kiddie gruesomeness and he’d get it out of his system. But he not only ate them all but with very apparent relish. Ever since whenever it’s his chance to choose where to eat he chooses there. He’s since eaten snails at other restaurants, but this place is the top choice for him. He claims they are bigger there. And as this was his first snail experience this for him is exactly how they should be.
I can’t tell you what snails are like to eat. I’m a vegetarian. According to my son the snails are chewy and he likes the texture with the garlicky buttery sauce they are cooked in. He doesn’t eat meat either, but he loves seafood. The first non veggie food he ate was clams from his dad’s spaghetti alle vongole at age 5 so maybe snails aren’t too big a jump from shellfish. In order to sort the snail eating thing out in his head he defines himself as someone who doesn’t eat mammals!
I suspect he also likes the ritual involved. The snails come on a special plate with an indentation to hold each snail and there are tongs to hold the snail steady and a special pronged fork to winkle them out of the shell.
Osteria al Ritrovo del Platano is a small restaurant with a small but well chosen menu. Game features particularly and local Garfagnana specialities. Obviously I don’t have the snails! My starter is always the warm black truffle eggs, and then maybe truffle pasta, or maybe a cheese platter.
The walls are decorated with memorabilia of Giovanni Pascoli, a famous Italian poet who had a house nearby at Castelvecchio from 1895 until his death in 1912. Pascoli used to frequent this osteria, and surely it cannot look that different from his day, still having a rustic charm.
The Osteria al Ritrovo del Platano is at Ponte di Campia on the SS445 Garfagnana road which runs alongside the Serchio river, north of Lucca, Tuscany. It is between Gallicano and Castelnuovo di Garfagnana and also easily reached in 10minutes from nearby Barga via Castelvecchio Pascoli. From Bagni di Lucca it’s 25minutes drive. http://www.osteriaalritrovodelplatano.it/
Pascoli’s home at Castelvecchio is now a museum