LUNETTA AT NIGHT
DINING & DRINKS UNDER THE SANTA MONICA MOON
Where there’s sun, the moon follows. When the day is done, it’s night time.
Lunetta All Day is a Santa Monica fast-casual favorite serving breakfast, lunch and dinner all day long. And located next door is Lunetta At Night with its chic and casual Moon Bar. Both spots are the offspring of Executive Chef Raphael Lunetta and offer California-inspired cuisine along with handcrafted cocktails.
For Chef Raphael Lunetta, who after enjoying an extraordinary career in fine dining, most notably helming the iconic JiRaffe, decided it was time to return to his Santa Monica and Venice Beach roots to open a restaurant that would embody the spirit of the city he grew up in.
“We are delivering flavorful dishes in a more cutting-edge format with a hyper-focus on quality and consistency,” says Chef Lunetta about Lunetta At Night. "Our kitchen talent and our custom built 72-inch wood-burning grill are bringing out the best of our highly sourced ingredients."
Chef’s interest in food came early in life with childhood summers spent in the South of France at his aunt’s 18th century farmhouse where large family dinners were cooked over open fires with fish caught fresh from the ocean and vegetables picked from the garden. A native of Southern California, Lunetta was an avid surfer and spent a year on the Association of Surfing Professionals tour traveling the world. In between competitions, he spent his free time in restaurant kitchens immersing himself in local cuisine until he traded his surfboard for a whisk and took the plunge to Europe to broaden his knowledge of the restaurant industry.
Whereas Lunetta All Day is a charming and casual spot, Lunetta At Night and its Moon Bar offer a more refined environment where a long and lazy evening can be had enjoying cocktails and inspired fare. During our recent visit for dinner, we started with cocktails, including the Oaxacan Mai Tai with Plantation pineapple rum, mezcal, lime, dry curacao, orgeat, and ango resulting in a lovely smoky Tiki drink that’s wonderfully boozy. Likewise, the Fig Manhattan with rye, Amaro Montenegro, orange bitters and fig jam is a lovely way to start a night out.
For starters we went with the Wood-Grilled Spanish Octopus and the House-made Pepperosa & Crab Gnocchi, both fine selections. The wood-grilled octopus begins with a three-to-four hour low and slow confit process before finishing off on the wood grill and it is served with butter beans and cherry tomatoes. It was so flavorful and quite the generous serving. The gnocchi, prepared with Fontina, Reggiano, and Pernod, was so rich, creamy and delicious. It’s big enough to be a meal all on its own but is best to be shared.
For your entrée, you can’t go wrong with the classic Caramelized Pork Chop, which is initially cooked on the wood-fire grill before finishing off in a cast iron skillet, plated up with Chieftain wild rice and smoked bacon, summer fruit, and sage reduction. This dynamite dish just screams red wine pairing, which will take the elevated dish to new heights.
Not to be outdone, the buttery and bright Wood-Grilled Loup de Mer is inspired by a meal eaten in Indonesia prepared with Bali spice, fresh herbs and local citrus. It’s light and fresh and so pleasing. Pair this with a nice white wine and prepare to really savor this dish.
Definitely save room for dessert and relish the Sticky Toffee Pudding served with vanilla ice cream, toffee sauce, and candied pecans. Yum! While the Chocolate Bourbon Truffle Cake with caramel bourbon sauce was decadently delicious, it needed ice cream instead of whipped cream. Serving this without ice cream seemed like a cheap oversight. So, make it all about the sticky toffee pudding.
While The Moon Bar offers a posh, comfortable setting, I prefer dinner in a proper dining room and depending on the night and the number of guests, you may have to make due with dinner in a library setting. I like the bar setting for drinks and nibbles and the dining room for a meal to be thoroughly enjoyed. And Lunetta At Night definitely has what it takes to make a night out a memorable one.
Lunetta Dining & The Moon Bar is located at 2424 Pico Boulevard in Santa Monica. Open for dinner every Tuesday through Friday from 6:30 pm to 11 pm, and every Saturday from 5 pm to 11 pm. Call 310-581-9888.
Story By; Jose Martinez
Photography Courtesy Of: Acuna-Hansen