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Food

After 18 years, JiRaffe is closing

Raphael Lunetta
Raphael Lunetta in the kitchen of JiRaffe.
(Coral Von Zumwait )

After 18 years, Raphael Lunetta has decided to close JiRaffe, the French bistro in Santa Monica he founded with then-partner Josiah Citrin.

In a letter sent to the restaurant’s faithful patrons, Lunetta wrote that “JiRaffe has grown and now it is time to let him go.”

“When Josiah [Citrin] and I opened that restaurant in 1996, we didn’t really know where it would go,” Lunetta said in a phone interview Wednesday. (Citrin went on to open his high-end French restaurant Mélisse in 1999.)

Eighteen years is a long run by any standard, even more so in Los Angeles, where few restaurants make it past the 10-year mark. So why is Lunetta letting JiRaffe go?

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The Santa Monica native has two boys, 12 and 14 years old. With the oldest already a teenager, he said, “I’m realizing I have to allow him to grow and at the same time allow myself to grow. That’s a scary emotion for me, especially when JiRaffe is so comforting for me.”

JiRaffe will close the day after Valentine’s Day, but the location won’t be empty for long: Lunetta plans to open a new restaurant in the space in March.

He said he’s been working on some ideas for months but wasn’t yet prepared to say what the new project will be.

Stay tuned.

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