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La Merenda

Having never used a combi oven before, La Merenda restaurant was able to decrease cooking times and increase both production and service capacity of their many small plate items by integrating an Alto-Shaam CT PROformance™ Combitherm® into their busy and stressed kitchen.

Named “Best Small Plate” restaurant by OnMilwaukee.com for the fifth year in a row, and one of the top 30 Restaurants in Milwaukee by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, La Merenda is a popular casual tapas bar and restaurant located in Milwaukee’s historic Walker’s Point.

La Merenda is a true tapas restaurant. With plates including slow cooked and braised items from around the world, the kitchen was only ever able to prepare one dish per day out of their one convection oven and range. The small kitchen would struggle to keep up with the wide range of small dishes offered.

The international menu is comprised of a wide variety of sharable small plates ranging from Spanish, to French and even German specialties. With each table ordering an average of five to 10 items to share, an increase in production speed and capacity was needed.

“Before using the combi, we would have to fight for space on the line. Constantly checking the oven to see if items were done was challenging and really slowed us down during prep and service,” said chef and owner Peter Sandroni.

To add to the need for more firepower, the restaurant recently added a beautiful new back patio with plenty of seating for the warmer months. “When we host parties out there, we would need to shut down the whole restaurant. We couldn’t do both,” said Peter. 

La Merenda Restaurant

“Now, instead of having to guess and check, we use the oven to achieve the perfect finish on every item. The precision you can achieve is amazing,” said Peter. “We can get so much more done in a day. Instead of fighting to use the oven, now we can make three dishes in six hours.”

More than just time, the CT PROformance Combitherm from Alto-Shaam has allowed La Merenda to increase their production capacity enough to now fully utilize their new outdoor space for parties while still operating the restaurant at full capacity.

“We now have the ability to have two separate services going with the same number of people. We have never been able to do that before,” said Peter.

By moving away from traditional convection and range cooking, the restaurant has been able to dramatically reduce cooking times while increasing quality. From roasting a chicken to duck confit, to even making a stock inside the oven, the PROformance Combitherm has changed the way this kitchen runs, and has given the La Merenda chefs more versatility than any other piece of equipment in their kitchen. The restaurant is now able to feature smoked items.

“You can get so much flavor so quickly,” said Peter.

And, since the smoking function is fully built into the oven, a quick cleaning cycle allows for the chefs to go from smoking meats to poaching fish without missing a beat. 

Cooking at La Merenda
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