Steak on the Stone at Bella Italia

We went out last night for a bit of grub and a few pints, and we ended up in Bella Italia, the delightful Italian establishment on Limerick’s Thomas St.

I’ve always liked this place.  It’s low-key and attentive at the same time.  It’s not too expensive, and the grub is good.  As someone who cooks a lot, I like to get good grub and I like to have it served well.  There’s nothing more annoying than a restaurant that fetishises itself, but Bella Italia is far from that sort of place.  They’re friendly and they’re   considerate.  All good.

I’d never tried the steak on a stone before, to my shame.  I didn’t even know how it worked, but it’s this: – you get a seared steak delivered to your table, sitting on a roasting-hot stone and then you slice off strips which you lay on the stone and cook to your personal preference.  It works.  This is delicious.

But of course, I couldn’t be happy with that, and in my discomfiture, I was backed up by my daughter.  You see, here’s the problem.  Even though you can slice strips off the main lump of steak, it continues to sit on the stone, cooking away, which you might not necessarily want.  The daughter’s solution was to request a side plate, but I can’t leave these things alone, so I got thinking.  What are the essential elements of this process?

Well, obviously, it’s necessary to have a delicious steak or three.  We need to have good company.  We need a nice bottle of wine.

If you’re going to do this at home, you need to complete the research.  On  a practical level, we need to examine the physics of this thing.  The stone needs to stay hot enough to cook every last strip of steak , no matter how lazy or drunk you happen to be, within reason.  Therefore it needs sufficient thermal mass.  How do you figure this out?  It isn’t easy.


As it happened, I had one of those slabs of marble for serving hot dishes, heated by two or three candles, and I was always sceptical, though I never got a chance to try it out.  The thing was only about 20 mm thick, which was fine for having a candle warm it up, but nowhere near enough to retain heat.  One way or another, now we have the opportunity, so tonight I stuck it in the oven and turned the temperature up to the max, and I left it there till the oven light went out.  Roasting hot.

It’s ok, but I don’t like it.  The little strips of beef cooked fine on the hot stone surface, but it cooled down too quickly and that’s my point made.

This is a very nice, sociable way to share food, but based on ad-hoc experiments, I think you probably need a stone about 50mm thick, or as we used to say in the old days, two inches.  Furthermore, you need a tiny trivet to keep the meat up from the stone so that it doesn’t continue to cook beyond  your personal personal preference while you enjoy the conversation, which is the main point of sharing a meal after all.

18 replies on “Steak on the Stone at Bella Italia”

Prawns mate…or Shrimp to the philistines….works a treat too ! Keep fightin’ the good fight dude..luv yar work !

Bock, I know that you’re a man that appreciates good food, but, don’t you think a hot stone on the table is a little gimmicky? Far easier to have your steak brought to you, cooked to order. I could see the hot stone thing working well on an outside fire though. If, we ever get a summer and some good barbecue weather I’ll give it a try.

When I go out for dinner, I don’t want anything to do with the food except to eat it. I want it handed to me on a warm plate, ready to enjoy. It’s a short lived gimmick.

Its not as giimmicky as you might think. In the south of France, this method of cooking is used a lot, particularly when cooking shell fish. My favourite is clams, cockles and mussels cooked this way. They cook in their own juices on the hot stone and the flavour is just excellent. Might do some the week-end.

Hi Bock and friends, It’s me Lenny, Enjoyed your blog so much I had to return.

Iv’e had this before. Enjoyed it but you have to ask what are the people in the kitchen doing? What next? Raw eggs and serve them how you like them? I can serve up a dry steak any day of the week. No problem. Give me a decent Indian curry any day. I’m eating one now.

Guessing not. Well I’m off then. Usually there is plenty of activity when I’ve been confrontational but not now. Says such a lot about the left.

Wooh there Lenny, some of us have other things to do you know, like assisting in the downfall of capitalism. To be honest though at this stage it just requires a little nudge before it falls on its arse :)
It was only an hour between your first and last post. A curry at 10:30 in the morning? I have to make the assumption that your are on a different time zone, because a curry at that hour could make one a little tetchy.

Fair play all, You’re right Long John on this occasion. I can honestly say though that a cold curry has been a welcome breakfast meal in the past and will be again in the future.

Soapstone is your man Bock.It retains heat for hours.Needs to be pre-heated of course. Sprinkle a bit of Sea salt onto the stone before cooking the meat.

The stone cooking method is used in Asian countries, notably China. Diners pay a flat fee at a counter and then go with trays to a long counter to collect dishes of bacon, chicken and other meats, as well as selections of green vegetables. A waiter comes round to the table and sets the ball rolling by cooking items on the spot. An assortment of sauce dips is available on every table. Chopsticks instead of knives & folks.Your Italian restaurant sounds wonderful.

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