Moonshadows makes Yelp’s Annual Top 100 U.S. Restaurants list

“Moonshadows,” located oceanside at 20356 Pacific Coast Highway, made the Yelp “Top List” due to its “chic atmosphere, stunning ocean view and seafood,” Describing the restaurant as the “quintessential California food experience. Contributed photo.

One of Malibu’s most popular restaurants, “Moonshadows,” made Yelp’s ninth annual list of “Top 100 Places to Eat” in the U.S. Coming in at No. 86, it was one of only four restaurants in California to be chosen.

The other three California “winners” are all located in Orange County, “Fermentation Farm” in Costa Mesa was No.3—a restaurant that Yelp describes as “quirky.” “The Vox Kitchen” in Fountain Valley was No. 11, and “Lido Bottle Works” of Newport Beach was No. 58. 

Part-owner and managing partner Andrea Bullo said in a phone interview that he was “excited” by the award, but it didn’t really change anything. “Like every day you come to work and do the best you can; I share the award with my staff…The guests are the most important thing.” 

To create the ‘Top 100 List,’ Yelp first reached out to its community of users and reviewers (Yelpers) for their favorite dining spots. Each restaurant was then ranked by a total number of submissions, ratings, reviews, and geographic representation, among other factors.

“Moonshadows,” located oceanside at 20356 Pacific Coast Highway, made the list due to its “chic atmosphere, stunning ocean view and seafood.”

Describing the restaurant as the “quintessential California food experience,” Yelp wrote, “Perched above the Pacific Ocean at Malibu Beach, this casual but chic eatery is a popular destination for anniversaries, birthday dinners, and romantic, post-beach cocktails. Many diners come just for a coveted spot on the sundeck.” 

Bullo first took over “Moonshadows” back in 2001 with his longtime friends Rodolfo Costella and Franco Simplicio (who are also co-owners of The Sunset Restaurant in Malibu). His mission was to transform the diamond-in-the-rough into a “chic and casual” Malibu beach restaurant featuring the Blue Lounge patio bar (now being used as additional seating during the pandemic).

He apparently succeeded—the restaurant received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence 2006 through 2011, a Michelin Award, and Best of Citysearch. “Moonshadows” has also been featured in top magazines; and as Travel Channel’s “sexiest beach restaurant and bar in the world.”

“It’s a great spot where people feel very comfortable coming in,” Bullo commented. “When I see repeating business and customers, that’s what I’m looking for. In this business, you feel humble, and you do your job, and after 21 years, people still like what we’re doing. All of our guests have been coming for so many years, and everybody knows about the gorgeous sunsets.”

Bullo, originally from Venice, Italy, began his career at various prominent Venice-area restaurants and hotels in 1979. He first came to the U.S. in 1985 and continued working in the hospitality business while attending UCLA. His first restaurant was Il Buco in Beverly Hills.

“Moonshadows” employs about 80 people; Bullo says there is very little turnover—it’s a happy staff, and it shows.

One of the secrets to their success is that they try to keep the menu “as consistent as possible” without a lot of changes—sticking to customer favorites that Bullo says include tuna tartare, real BBQ, duck spring rolls, linguine with Dungeness crab, miso-glazed black cod and Chilean sea bass.

When it comes to beverages, Bullo described an extensive wine list with wines from all over the world that customers enjoy, as well as the restaurant’s most popular cocktails: Strawberry Fields, Kentucky Mules, and the Royal Mai Tai.