Michael Martorella is Mr. Cheesecake. But the title may not befit a man who makes 50 kinds of cheesecake. So that's Sir Cheesecake to you.
During farmers'-market season, Martorella bakes more than a dozen specialty cheesecakes every week in a rented professional kitchen in Bridgeville. He then drives them to three markets. He sets up his table, lays out samples and sells by the slice. That's it. If you want a whole cake, place an order.
His simple supply-and-demand method works. Martorella started as a guest vendor at the Washington, Pa., farmers' market, and was asked to become full-time vendor. Samples turned into slices turned into phone and Web-site orders.
"It would be too difficult to take whole cakes to the market," explains Martorella. "It's easier to refrigerate slices -- so I pack them up in dry ice and go from there."
Martorella, who gets a hand from mom Jean, offers three varieties of his signature dessert at each market -- plain and two flavored cheesecakes.
Among the rotating flavors: one filled with peanut-butter-and-jelly, another with a chocolate-covered-pretzel crust, and pumpkin, tiramisu, smores and English toffee.
The flavored cheesecakes are modified versions of his basic recipe, one that was handed down by his aunt in New York.
"She used to make [cheesecake] for holidays and special occasions, and when I got old enough, I wanted to learn how to make it," says Martorella. "We made it step by step, over and over, and one day she said, ‘It's perfect.'"
Martorella used to just bake the cakes for parties and friends. Then he started experimenting with ingredients and decided to apply to sell at the farmers' market.
"It went from a hobby to renting a kitchen and becoming a business," he says. "Now we've expanded into cookies and biscotti."
With co-owner Rich Burgun, Martorella has created 50 types of cheesecake, but has scaled down current production to (a mere) 20. He's also giving custom wedding cakes a whirl, and offering his baked goods at his sister's store, Carlena's Italian Market & Deli, in Upper St. Clair.
"If you come every week to the farmers' markets, by the end of the summer you've tasted all of our cheesecakes," says Martorella.
With markets opening soon, mark your calendar: Mr. Cheesecake can be found at Bethel Park on Tuesdays, Mount Lebanon on Wednesdays, and Washington on Thursdays.
412-303-6463 or 412-480-3312