It’s funny sometimes how things play out.
We were first exposed to Raphael Lunetta’s skills as a chef when Karen and I attended the Buick Discovery Tour at the Four Seasons Hotels in Westlake Village over five years ago.
At the time Chef Lunetta was helming his restaurant JiRaffe in Santa Monica. After meeting him at the Westlake Village event and trying his food, we vowed to make it in to his restaurant but sadly never did. Ultimately we heard that he had closed it after a very long run.
Then in 2017, we got word that he had opened Lunetta All Day in Santa Monica [in the space formerly occupied by Josie’s]. We had still not made it in to check it out when we received the invitation to the media tasting to introduce Lunetta Dining and The Moon Bar.
While Lunetta All Day is a fast-casual restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner [yes, all day], right next door Lunetta Dining and The Moon Bar [together known as Lunetta At Night] hit all the right notes of “elevated cuisine”, “handcrafted cocktails”, “local ingredients” and “farm to table”. These are not just buzzwords here; that is evident.
At the media tasting, we got to sample a number of tasty treats, including beef carpaccio, avocado gazpacho, wood-grilled maitake, crab cakes, loup de mer and rack of lamb.
Sample cocktails were served as well, although we focused on the wine. Sommelier and Beverage Director Kristine Bocchino has put together a great wine list from which we got to try the Picpoul from Forlorn Hope [Calaveras County], the Mourvedre Rose from Liquid Farm [Happy Canyon], the Brut Sparkling Chardonnay from Ferrari [Trentino. Italy] as well as the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah blend from Perinet [Priorat, Spain]. But these just scratch the surface of this list that has a lot of gems on it at a variety of price points.
The media event exposed us to an amazing array of food and libations as well as to Lunetta’s great staff, but of course it was nothing like what a diner will experience upon going there. Karen and I enjoyed the food soooo much that we followed up with a dinner – Saturday nights are especially great for getting out of the Santa Clarita Valley and seeing what the rest of the LA area has to offer.
We shared the grilled nectarines [with manchego and prosciutto] and the wood-grilled Spanish octopus. Karen ordered the New Zealand John Dory. I couldn’t pass up the rack of lamb special.
Preparation and service were superb. This was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time. Everything was delicious. Hard to pick highlights but here are a few: The nectarines and prosciutto were both generous portions and neither ingredient overshadowed the other. And the octopus – I consider myself somewhat of an octopus aficionado and this was possibly the best I have ever had; extremely tender but not mushy at all, great flavor without being overtly charred. The rack was amazing, again one of the best representations that I have had of that classic as well.
The open kitchen is a nice touch. Not obtrusive but there if you wanted to watch Chef Lunetta and his team in action, or even better – snag a seat at the Chef’s Counter. Somehow, the chef managed to spend time in the dining room as well, making his guests feel welcome. This place is definitely in our rotation; it should be in yours as well.
Lunetta Dining & The Moon Bar
2424 Pico Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Michael Perlis has been pursuing his passion for wine for more than 25 years. He has had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show him the way, as well as a wonderful wife who encourages him and shares his interest. After a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as he possibly could, he had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Now, as Contributing Editor for Eve’s Wine 101, he does his best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers. Michael is also Vice President of Eve Bushman Consulting (fka Eve’s Wine 101 Consulting) http://evebushmanconsulting.com/ and President of MCP Financial. Michael can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.