Chef & Owner Tony Najiola
Tony was born and raised in New Orleans, the great grandson of a Sicilian vegetable farmer. Like just about everyone in New Orleans, Tony loved food from an early age. So at 17 he got his first restaurant job. At 21, he moved to Manhattan, and by 27 he had his first executive chef job at a little restaurant in the West Village called the Village Green. In 1991, he moved to San Francisco where he became Chef at Brasserie Savoie and then Executive Chef at Ernie’s. In 1995 he became Winery Chef at Ravenswood in Sonoma County and then in April of 2003, he opened his own restaurant … Central Market.
Tony was drawn to Petaluma because of its rich agricultural history and the fact that there was farmland in close enough proximity to the downtown area. In 2011 he realized his dream of owning a nearby farm to support the restaurant. He named the property Muleheart Farm and began raising his own livestock and growing his own organic produce.
“Making familiar things new and figuring out how to turn traditional recipes into something fresh and exiting is what I love about this,” says Chef Tony. Over the past decade, Tony’s double-life as a farmer has enhanced his mastery of sustainability, the quality of his goods and his understanding of working the land. On any given afternoon when he is not at the restaurant, you will find him gathering milk and acorns for his pigs or nose-deep in a book about sausage.
Our Own: Muleheart Farm
Muleheart Farm is Central Market’s own dedicated organic farm, located right here in Petaluma. We raise several heirloom breeds of pigs, including Berkshires, Guineas, and Red Wattles, exclusively for use at the restaurant. We also raise laying hens, fall Bourbon Red turkeys, and one very congenial pair of ducks. We grow a wide variety of seasonal vegetables, including heirloom tomatoes, asparagus, summer squash, sprouting broccoli, rainbow carrots, several lettuces, and a variety of fruits and flowers.
As advocates of sustainable and organic farming, our agricultural approach includes attracting beneficial wildlife, balancing crop and livestock rotations, and building healthy soils in an effort to establish a harmonious and thriving ecosystem.