Vongole is the Italian word for cockles and pipis. When I lived in South Australia there were large succulent cockles that come from Goolwa, Middleton and the Coorong. In Victoria we call them pipis and they are found around the southern Victorian coastline.
Before you get excited about harvesting cockles from beaches you need to be aware that there are strong regulations for the harvest of these succulent little morsels because their numbers have been reduced significantly. It is positive to see that restrictions have been placed on the mechanical harvesting and numbers of licenses issued for the commercial fishing of cockles and there are now open and closed seasons to allow some of the stock to recuperate.
The above applies in South Australia and in Victoria and may be the case in other Australian states and in other parts of the world and it does not apply only to commercial fishers.
From Fisheries Victoria:
Although it is recognised in both states that fishers and families from a diverse range of backgrounds enjoy collecting pipis, either for food or bait, The reduced catch limit will help to ensure that access is shared among recreational collectors.
From Australian Marine Conservation Society (think twice classification):Cockles and Pipis
Notes: Harvested by hand from mud and sand flats; impact of intense localised harvesting unknown; uncertain stock status for all species; significant population fluctuations due to environmental factors; Pipi catches and catch rates in NSW have declined significantly in recent years.
I bought 1 kilo and fed 4 people. As much as I like this dish, (and so did my guests), this is all I will eat this season- it will help me to appreciate them even more next season.
I use a large frypan to ensure more even cooking.