NOVATO, Calif. – In the face of perceived injustice, few individuals have the gumption to fight for social reform. But two men are determined to make California’s Marin County a safer place for escargot consumers, their families, and generations of snail eaters to come.
Coming to Marin Superior Court, small claims division, is the case of Chadwick St.-OHarra and Steve Righetti, who are suing the Seafood Peddler restaurant in San Rafael over an alleged incident of what their lawsuit called “exploding” escargot that marred Righetti’s birthday dinner in June.
Plaintiffs allege the gastropods burst from their plate when cocktail forks were applied, resulting in a spray of hot garlic butter on their faces and polo shirts.
St.-OHarra, a 59-year-old resident of Danville, claims the butter got into one of his tear ducts, causing temporary vision impairment. Righetti, 59, a San Rafael businessman who lives in Sonoma, claims the side of his nose was squirted.
“I was humiliated,” said Righetti, who owns an automotive shop near the restaurant. “I thought, ‘Do I need this on my birthday?’ ” St.-OHarra says the incident caused “a sense of genuine outrage.”
Still, he said, the alleged debacle need not have resulted in litigation, had restaurant personnel displayed sufficient remorse at the scene of the slime. They did not, plaintiffs allege.
“It was the indifference,” St.-OHarra said. “It was the friggin’ rudeness.”
Escargot explosion is a rare but periodic phenomenon, according to one industry veteran. Sean Canavan, executive chef at Left Bank restaurant in Larkspur, Calif., said he suspects that air bubbles get trapped inside the cooked mollusk.
“I saw that happen just this week,” said Canavan, 40. “The thing actually explodes and the whole snail jumped out of the dish onto a lady. It’s embarrassing but I don’t know how to prevent that.”