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Koxlioi: The Traditional Escargot Dish of Crete

Koxlioi snails Kritamon restaurant Crete Chef Mavrakis
The traditional dish of koxlioi, or snails, served at Kritamon. Credit: Greek Reporter.

“Koxlioi,” or snails, are a traditional Cretan dish that Chef Dimitris Mavrakis of a restaurant called Kritamon has chosen to explore and reimagine over the course of his career.

His well-known and  well-regarded restaurant is located on the island of Crete, in a small village near Heraklion named Archanes.

Chef Mavrakis and Kritamon

Mavrakis became certified in French cuisine in 1994 but decided to pivot back to his Greek roots when he began his career. He founded Kritamon, a restaurant specializing in local Cretan cuisine, thirteen years ago and has, since then, made a name for himself on both the island and beyond.

Speaking exclusively with Greek Reporter, Mavrakis explained his love for Cretan cuisine and the driving forces behind his work, which fills him with passion each and every day.

“My love for Cretan cuisine made me change my entire outlook on international cuisine,” the chef relates, showing just how influential Greek food can be. 

The restaurant has multiple dishes—many of them no doubt because of the quality of ingredients Mavrakis uses in his cooking—for which it has gained prominence. The restaurateur has his own farm from which he sources the majority of the ingredients used in his dishes. Another well-known dish is the restaurant’s freshly made, mouthwatering pasta, which the chef uses in multiple traditional recipes.

“There are pastas in cuisines across the world and there are several recipes using it, and so we make it from scratch at the restaurant. I use exclusively Cretan and organic ingredients, as well as only using olive oil,” Mavrakis shares, highlighting the importance of fresh, clean ingredients to beautiful dishes. 

More than 350 recipes for “Koxlioi” snails on Crete

However, one of Mavrakis’ absolute favorite recipes to tinker with and serve to patrons is that of koxlioi, or snails.

As is the case with recipes all over Greece, there are regional variations of the recipe which can have a huge impact on the final taste of the snails themselves.

As recipes tend to be passed down within families and communities in Greece, rather than being broadcast on television or online, regional variation continues to play a significant role in the culinary life of the nation.

Koxlioi snails Kritamon restaurant Crete Chef Mavrakis
Chef Dimitris Mavrakis at his restaurant on Crete, where he works to keep long-established recipes alive. Credit: Greek Reporter.

“Around 350 different recipes for koxlioi (snails) have been documented across the island. Every region and every village has a different recipe, and what I try to do is to find old recipes and bring them back to the gastronomical scene,” divulged Mavrakis about his cooking, which embraces tradition while adding a personal twist. 

“I add my own [twist] (to the recipes) and present them to people…what I find particularly important is to have young people enjoying the restaurant and experiencing these old recipes,” he continued, cognizant of how vital future generations are for preserving and spreading Cretan cuisine. 

“The biggest goal for me with the restaurant is to make Crete, and Archarnes, known across the globe,” concluded Mavrakis. His goal seems to be well underway if the glowing reviews of Kritamon by patrons from all corners of the globe are anything to go by!

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