Content sponsored by: Alto-Shaam

Even the smallest establishments can develop a niche menu when kitchen space is at a premium. Cook and hold ovens are designed to fit the space instead of the kitchen being designed to fit the oven.

Cabana Winery & Bistro, an urban winery located in Sacramento, Calif., experienced this when it opened in March 2014. The 700-square-foot restaurant accommodates 28 guests inside and 140 on the outdoor patio.

Robert Smerling, owner of Cabana Winery & BistroRobert Smerling, owner of Cabana Winery & Bistro, was able to expand his menu by incorporating Alto-Shaam's space-saving 300-TH/III Cook & Hold oven.

In the winemaking business for more than two decades, Robert Smerling opened the bistro across from his Cabana Wines winery, combining his love for wine and locally sourced food.

Unfortunately, because of a small, 100-square-foot kitchen, the restaurant was contending with strict city regulations that prohibited the use of a ventilation hood or oven that cooked above 325 degrees.

Though Smerling sought to expand the menu beyond appetizers in the restaurant’s limited back of house space, he was doubtful an equipment solution was available that fit both his production needs and fit the kitchen’s small footprint.

While attending a foodservice tradeshow, Smerling came across the Alto-Shaam 300-TH/III Cook and Hold oven, the smallest unit of this type available. He soon realized this equipment would open up an entirely new menu of possibilities for Cabana Winery and Bistro.

Alto-Shaam cook & hold ovenBecause Alto-Shaam's cook and hold ovens use lower heat than conventional units, no pricey ventilation hoods are needed.

“We went to two supply houses, before going to a dealer tradeshow to see the Alto-Shaam cook and hold oven in action,” said Smerling. “We didn’t realize the oven cooked as well as held food, and our chef was in awe.”

After incorporating the Alto-Shaam cook and hold oven, the restaurant was able to offer a line of special entrees that change weekly. Although it’s a winery first and foremost, Cabana Winery and Bistro serves more than 250 dinners a week, most of which comes out of the cook and hold oven.

“Because we can’t get a hood into our small kitchen, the Alto-Shaam cook and hold oven allows us to make dishes we couldn’t otherwise make,” said Smerling. “It’s an integral part of the kitchen.”

With no flavor carryover, reduced energy consumption and no exterior ventilation needed, the cook and hold can work all day, every day, with maximum efficiency. It’s versatile too; options include cooking, roasting, baking, braising, smoking and drying.

“We use the cook and hold oven for chicken picatta, fish, lamb and many of our appetizers, plus it makes a beautiful prime rib,” said Smerling. “We also use it for holding during banquets.”

The cook and hold oven that is used at Cabana measures only 17 inches wide by 24 inches deep, with a height just below 19 inches. It’s designed for restaurant and bistro operations with tight counter space and à la carte menus. Because the cook and hold oven does not need a hood, the oven fits under Cabana’s pots and pans sink.

“The biggest benefits are we don’t need a hood, the oven accommodates a half-size tray and it takes up minimal space,” said Smerling. “It’s the whole package.”

While the oven is small, it can cook up to 36 pounds of food at a time. The oven holds three full-sized Gastronorm pans and automatically switches from cook to hold. Using the cook and hold overnight allows one prep job to be completed before restaurant staff comes into work the next day. The cook and hold oven also features eight easy-to-use programmable menu buttons that permanently store favorite recipes

The unit’s soft, gentle Halo Heat® technology – an insulated cable that gently wraps around the unit –  holds food at the ideal temperature for hours, eliminating waste from overcooked food. Also, unlike gas ovens, Halo Heat provides the humid heat required for effectively roasting the meat served at Cabana Winery and Bistro.

In addition to its size and cooking ability, the oven’s superior insulation gives off no extra heat, making it comfortable to cook in the small kitchen. Also, the integrated probe has been ideal for cooking with precision in the oven.

“With just the cook and hold oven, induction burners and panini presses, we prepare a substantial menu here,” said Smerling.

The restaurant’s success has prompted Smerling to begin plans to add another Cabana Winery & Bistro location, which will be larger in size.

“We’re at capacity and looking to expand to a second location,” said Smerling. “This will include a larger Alto-Shaam cook and hold oven as we’re big fans of this equipment.”

Learn more about the benefits of cook & hold ovens at