In Vienna’s 10th district, one of lush parks and simple red-brick buildings, Andreas Gugumuck tends his rows of low wood paddocks, the shadowy spaces he created in his sprawling urban garden for his snails to breed in. “It’s a paradise for them,” Gugumuck says. The farm’s calcium-rich soil and the area’s consistent rains help maintain the snails’ ideal level of humidity. This year, his farm will yield around one and a half tons of the mollusks, most of which he’s either serving at his own on-site restaurant, Wiener Schnecke (Schnecken means “snails”), or sending out to the best chefs in Austria.
In 2008, after inheriting the 400-year-old farm from his grandmother, Gugumuck left his job at IBM in hopes that he could reintroduce this nearly extinct culinary delicacy to modern day Vienna. He just needed to create an environment in which several different species (Roman, Mediterranean, and pedigree snails) could thrive. According to Gugumuck, it wasn’t difficult. “Breeding snails is the same as keeping a garden,” he says.
Snails make up a forgotten piece of Viennese cuisine. While most people have heard of crispy Wiener schnitzel or Sachertorte, not many realize that during the Middle Ages, Vienna was the global leader in snail consumption. Introduced by the Romans, these mollusks were a staple largely because the Catholic church allowed them as an alternative to the red meat tha