Baked Potatoes with Style: Occomè Florence

Among the many results of this era of gastronomy is the growing variety of options in the global restaurant scene. Take a trip to a food-inclined city anywhere in the world, and you’ll likely be struck with a battery of eateries, with some serving the traditional cuisine of the region, others offering a completely original type of global-fusion and still others preparing authentic dishes from halfway across the world. Put simply, it’s a good time to be a foodie.

If there was one, albeit small, common denominator amongst most of these restaurants, it’s the presence of one special ingredient. It’s a product that can be found on almost all menus, regardless of theme, and they’re beloved by just about everyone. It’s the humble potato.

It’s no secret that the world loves potatoes. Worldwide production of the sensational starch was estimated to be about 388 million tons in 2017. Few would argue that their popularity is well-deserved. They’re ridiculously affordable, high in calories and abundant. Plus, they rival eggs and flour in terms of versatility.

Despite this popularity, potatoes are often, quite literally, pushed to the side. They play mere supporting roles in the production of entree theater, with some variety of protein taking the lead. There’s a reason why we say “meat and potatoes” and not “potatoes and meat” (Think of how many potato side dishes there are; actually don’t, we’ll be here for hours.)

Furthermore, when most of us crave potatoes we look to one of two extremes. They either need to be plunged in dangerously hot oil until crispy or boiled and assaulted with every dairy product in the fridge until creamy. There’s certainly nothing wrong with either of these methods, but their popularity has led to the near abandonment of the once-beloved baked potato.

Whole roasted spuds rarely receive any attention nowadays. Huffington Post ranked them 15th in their ranking of the best ways to eat potatoes. They’re almost always given the sour cream-cheese-bacon treatment, but they’re potential is so much greater than that. One bold Florentine restaurant admirably tapped into that potential. Welcome to Occomè.

This little hideaway near one of the most popular food markets in Florence specializes in patate ripieni, AKA filled potatoes, and their selections stray far from the typical sour cream treatment.

Occome offers forty variations on the classic baked spud, almost all of which come automatically stuffed with melted cheese. Then it’s up to the customer to choose from the head-spinning selection of proteins and additional cheeses.

Among the many carnivorous fillings include sausage (cooked or raw), bacon and ragu di cingiale, a stewy sauce made with wild boar that’s typically served tossed with pasta. One particularly alluring combo is speck and gorgonzola. The former is a variety of cured and smoked ham that originated in northern Italy. It’s bold, moderately salty flavor clashes beautifully with the funky, oozy gorgonzola.

Not a pork fanatic? No problem, Occume provides diners with a handful of vegetarian options, the most interesting being “Uova di quaglia e Tartufo,” quail egg and truffle.

This proudly bougie potato is topped with three petit, sunny-side quail eggs and a light dousing of salsa di tartufa. Crack into those eggs and mix the bright yellow yolks into the starchy potato and melty cheese center, and you’re in for one decadent bite after another.

Even those who are craving seafood can get their fix at Occomè. There’s tuna and tomato, baccalà con i porri (cod and leek) and, most interestingly, polpo, better known to English speakers as octopus.

Depending on how familiar you are with eating octopus, this either looks delightful or terrifying. However, anyone who gives it a chance will be rewarded with an abundance of tender octo-meat, a light lashing of olive oil and absolutely no cheese.

Occomè is among the few restaurants promoting the potato to main course status. Despite it’s modest appearance, it may be among the most one-of-a-kind places to eat in Florence. Check them out Wednesday through Monday for lunch or dinner at Piazza Lorenzo Ghiberti, 43.


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