Club Alum and Owner/Partner and Chef Proprietor of Lunetta
When Raphael Lunetta was nine, he joined Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica (at the time it was the Boys Club of Santa Monica), meeting friends he still has to this day.
“The friendships I developed at the Club have been lifelong friends, supporting me in many phases of my life,” he said. “Fred and Ira Rutan are two people I still maintain friendships with, and I will always appreciate them as positive influences in my life.”
If you live in or near Santa Monica, you are probably familiar with the restaurant Lunetta. Raphael is the Owner/Partner and Chef Proprietor and has been an integral part of the local restaurant community for decades.
Before the apprenticeships at legendary restaurants in France, the Food & Wine Best New Chef Award, the James Bear Foundation dinner, and the appearances on Top Chef (guest judge) and Beat Bobby Flay, there was Raphel, a shy only child who loved his Big Wheel, his shiny red Schwinn Stingray bike, and his Ocean surfboard.
“The Club was cool because the environment allowed me to feel comfortable with people, whether it was playing air hockey, or a big welcoming smile from the ladies at the front desk. It was a fun and safe place for me to go after school,” Raphael explained.
At Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica, Raphael came out of his shell—with the encouragement of new friends and mentors.
“I think it’s important to have a safe place where young people can connect with peers and staff, especially for children of single parent homes and low-income families,” said Raphael. “The Club provides role models outside the home environment and a place to keep kids out of trouble.”
We’re proud to still be providing the relationships and support Santa Monica kids need to thrive.
The relationships Raphael made at Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica encouraged him to make good choices. “I have also seen certain friends choose different directions in life that may not have been good choices. That inspired me to choose differently in life,” shared Raphael.
Sports were also a big part of his time as a Club member. “They had an indoor gym full basketball court! I will never forget the echo and the speed of the shiny hardwood floors,” he said.
He also remembers the year his flag football team was undefeated for the entire season. After each win, the team would take a celebratory trip to the “legendary” Fosters Freeze on Pico and 16th.
Being part of a team was important for Raphael. The friendships, coach advice, and sportsmanship lessons contributed to his growth and development. These are experiences and people he will always remember fondly.
“There were so many great memories,” he said.
Raphael’s time as a Club member prepared him for the rest of his life. We are so grateful for his support of Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica, which is providing the next generation of kids in Santa Monica with the skills, relationships, and support they need to find their unique futures.