My mother didn't like how soft-shell crabs looked as these reminded her of fried spiders. So needless to say these were not a part of her Italian cooking when I was growing up and neither were Caesar salads or mussels, since she couldn't get mussels or the fresh seafood she was used in Livorno.
I don't think, and I can be wrong, that crabs are Italian, but the way these were prepared was Italian I guess.
My first experience of eating crabs ever was when I was in the seminary in Baltimore. Baltimore is known for its blue crabs and the manner in which they steam them. The first time I had soft shell crabs I absolutely love them for their ease of eating, you eat the whole dang thing and can cut it with a fork.
The meal was superb and worth the anxiety of eating in a nice restaurant alone. Maybe I should do it more often to get over my phobia. Frazier had an episode where Frazier had my phobia and went to a restaurant alone only to have his phobias come true. I laughed till I cried as the show captured exactly my fears!
Fr. Z eat your heart out!
pan seared soft shell crabs in a lemon caper sauce over angel hair pasta: