She also needed a name.
La Sorella, which means sister in
Italian, hints at Gerteis’s heritage
(her dad was from Sicily), but
it has a bigger meaning too. “I
feel very strongly about family and my sister is really everything to me. My two
daughters are sisters. I have girlfriends who are like sisters, neighbors who are like
sisters. It’s an important relationship,” she explains.
Plus, she’d developed her own love of cooking from the many women in her
life. “My grandmothers always cooked. My mother always cooked. My stepmother
was also a wonderful cook.” Gerteis grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Not
surprisingly, Italian and Southwestern cuisine are among her favorites. Oh, and pot pies.
“I just really like them,” she laughs. “I make the crust, I make the chicken stock. That
was one of the great things about cooking school: learning how to make all the parts of
a recipe. If I can make it, I make it.” (You can view Gerteis’s creations on the La Sorella
Gerteis met her husband, Mark, in college in Denver. After graduation, the couple
remained there until Mark, who is president of Forest City Capital Corp., was transferred
“We started looking for a house on the West Side and my husband said, ‘Please just
look at Shaker.’ Somebody he works with invited us to dinner and it was beautiful. I was
captivated by the neighborhoods, the charm of the homes, and so we started looking at
houses,” recalls Gerteis.
About 20 houses later they found “the one” in the City’s Boulevard neighborhood.
They moved in, started renovating, and quickly felt right at home. “The community
is great,” says Gerteis, who has also worked as a realtor at Howard Hanna. “We have
wonderful neighbors, friends. Another thing I love about this community is that people
genuinely want to see others succeed.”
These days, Gerteis is feeling her way to next steps for her business. “I’m trying to
keep up with the growth,” she says. But her approach is unlikely to change. She enjoys
developing menus in collaboration with her clients.
“We sit down and talk about a plan. What are the guests like? What type of party is it?
Formal or casual? Age of the guests? Food allergies are also a big thing. I’m doing a bridal
shower where the bride is gluten free and a rehearsal dinner where the bride is vegan, so
I’m developing menus that meet those needs.”
Her favorite event so far? A private party at Cleveland’s re:bar, on E. 9th Street, for
which she created platters of charcuterie and crudité. She often gets inspiration from the
fresh ingredients she discovers locally, but
often with a twist. “For example, I like to
do interesting vegetables,” she says. “Not
just carrots and celery, but tri-color carrots
with stems on them, purple cauliflower, and
other things I find at the markets.”
That includes using Cleveland
suppliers for meat and fish. “I like to give
business to local places,” says Gerteis. “I
believe in quality and try to find the best
ingredients I can.” That includes meats from
Ohio Provisions on Cleveland’s West Side
and fish from Catanese Classic Seafood in
Says Gerteis, “I care about what I’m
making for people. Whether I’m cooking
for a friend, my family, or for work, I try
to make it all as special as possible. It’s just
how I am.”
La Sorella Catering Services
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SHAKER LIFE | FALL 2017 33