If She Can Make It,
She Makes It
By Diana Simeon
Photography by Angelo Merendino
Lisa Alongi Gerteis had always dreamed of going to cooking school,
so in 2016 she took the plunge, enrolling in the culinary arts program at the International
Culinary Arts and Sciences Institute — founded by Loretta Paganini — in Chesterland.
Little did Gerteis dream that less than a year later, she’d be the owner of a busy
catering company, La Sorella Catering Services.
“School was just for me — I wasn’t planning on doing anything with it. But then
I started getting asked to do catering,” says Gerteis, who was in the midst of preparing
desserts for a luncheon she was catering over the weekend. On the menu: sandwiches and
fresh salads, blackberry-brownie cheesecake, two kinds of cupcakes — one her favorite
vanilla and the other a lemon verbena-brown-butter-toffee-chocolate chip cookies, and
lavender-and-vanilla bean palmiers.
Like many in the profession, Gerteis’s first catering experience was a favor for a friend.
“I was working in real estate at the time and a friend asked if I would cater an event at
University Hospitals,” she says. “I’d never really thought about catering. I was really nervous
but it all worked out.”
Soon, the phone started ringing, so Gerteis quickly pulled together a plan. “I did it
backwards,” she says. “I had to get a business license, register as an LLC, and all that.”