Brad Czerkies of Brad’s Underground Pizza – the man, the myth, the legend – we were obsessed with this obscure Instagram only one-man pizza army shop for months, but recently they came up from the underground to open a pick up/delivery spot inside the Collab Kitchens backed by the Tung brothers of Bento Restaurant Group. We got to speak with Brad recently to talk about his background and his love for pizza!
Industry Profile: In-Depth with Brad Czerkies of Brad’s Underground Pizza
Tasty Chomps: What did you do before getting into pizza?
Brad Czerkies of Brad’s Underground Pizza: I grew up in the North Suburbs of Chicago until I was 21. I’ve been in Central Florida since 2009. I have an interesting background. I come from the entertainment field. I played in a band, I was a Knight at Medieval Times, I was an Audio Engineer and Video Editor for a film studio, and most recently I was a Professor at Full Sail University.
What inspired you to start Brad’s Underground?
I felt like there were a lot of people like me in Orlando, who wanted a different option than what was being offered in Orlando.
I’ve wanted to open a pizzeria for years, but I couldn’t get the ingredients I was looking for. I have to get them shipped in from Chicago. In the beginning I had to fly there, buy the ingredients, and bring them back on the plane. Luckily I only had to do it a couple times and it was in December and February so everything stayed frozen until I landed in Florida.
That picture (below) is of me in the Chicago O’Hare airport pushing 200lbs of frozen Cheese and Sausage packed in duffle bags. People looked at me like I just robbed a bank. I did feel like maybe I got away with something. I want to thank the TSA for believing in me and my dream. They could have easily told me I couldn’t bring it through.
How did it take off?
I started making pizza on the weekends for any of my students from Full Sail. It gave me practice and they loved free pizza. The students would order through instagram. They chose a day and time and I would make the pizza and deliver it to them for free. I did it for free because I wanted to see if I could do it and if people liked it. I then did a pop up at Full Sail’s Hall of Fame event, and the response was incredible and it encouraged me to continue. Word started to spread and my followers grew.
I continued to make the pizzas and deliver them to people until my Underground Pizzeria was starting to catch some mainstream. One night I go to bed and there’s 1000 new followers and 300 new messages. A month goes by and there’s over 1000 messages from people that want to order. At some point Instagram stopped sending them to my inbox. Maybe it was full? but I know there’s a lot of unanswered messages and for that I’m very sorry.
When did you officially open?
Johnny Tung, owner of Bento, was one of the people who messaged me. He had a place called Collab Kitchens and there was space available. It had 4 of the big kitchen items I needed, and I could get started right away without having to wait months. He gives people like me a chance to grow in the restaurant industry and I am very thankful. I moved into the Collab Kitchens location at 4400A Curry Ford Road, Orlando in July, and was officially open in August 2021.
What can guests expect in the near future from Brads? Any new plans?
I have a lot of ideas, but for now I’m concentrating on just pizza. I do however have plans on adding new menu items. I just don’t know when or how soon that could be.
What are some of your goals and dreams for Brad’s Underground?
One of my goals is to figure out a way to do more volume. Maybe hire an employee. My long term goal is to have 50 locations in 50 years. I have dreams of expanding across all of central florida.
How would you describe your pizza styles? What is your food philosophy?
I make a Deep Dish, Double decker and Tavern style pizza. I call my pizza Orlando’s PIzza, because I want to give the people of Orlando their own identity. Maybe one day I’ll have something that will be known as Orlando style pizza, but until then let’s just call it Orlando’s pizza.
I’m a fan of any good pizza. It doesn’t matter where it comes from. Chicago, NY, New Haven, Detroit, Orlando. If it’s good it’s good. If it’s bad, then it’s bad.
What are some of the most popular dishes right now?
Deep Dish pizza. But I suggest trying all of them and deciding which one is right for you.
Order online at: https://www.bradsunderground.com/ pick up at Collab Kitchens – 4400A Curry Ford Road Orlando, FL 32812