Ristorante Paradiso

May 12, 2010 dreamkaleidoscope
Tags: , , ,

TITLE: Ristorante Paradiso
RATING: Older Teen (16+)
CATEGORY: I’m not exactly sure, but it’s probably either josei or seinen. Anyone know for sure?
SCORE: 8 (Very Good)
RECOMMENDED FOR FANS OF: Natsume Ono (mangaka of not simple, Gente, House of Five Leaves), All My Darling Daughters, slice of life, romance

I’ve always loved Italian culture. In fact, my family likes to joke that I’m Italian at heart, despite my Polish/Irish/Scottish/Native American ancestry. If I was given the opportunity to travel to any country in the world, all expenses paid, I would chose Italy without a doubt. (Japan would be my second choice.)

Unfortunately, that will never happen, so the next best way to experience Italy is through etertainment media, such as this charming one-shot manga by mangaka Natsume Ono.

Ristorante Paradiso begins with twenty-one year old Nicoletta arriving in Rome with a mission. When she was around six years old, her divorced mother Olga left her in the care of her grandparents so that she could marry Lorenzo, a man who refused to marry a divorcee with children. Due to distance and her busy career as a lawyer, Olga rarely visited, essentially abandoning her daughter. Now that she’s an adult, Nicoletta plans to get revenge on Olga by telling Lorenzo her mother’s big secret.

Her plans change, however, when she meets Claudio, the head waiter at Ristorante Casetta dell’Orso, the popular restaurant Lorenzo owns where all the male staff are required to wear glasses in order to satisfy Olga’s fetish. (Strangely enough, Lorenzo himself does not wear glasses.) Despite the fact that Claudio is much older than Nicoletta and refuses to take off his wedding ring even though he has been divorced for several years, his kind and quiet nature piques Nicoletta’s interest. In order to get closer to him, she makes a deal with her mother: if Olga can get her a job at the restaurant, she will reconsider telling Lorenzo the truth about who she really is. 

It’s a simple plot, but the characters are the main draw here. I admired Nicoletta immediately for her spunk, and I can see why she felt herself drawn to Claudio. He’s not handsome in a conventional way, but he does possess this aura of kindness about him. I also found his reluctance to take off his wedding ring very true to life. He knows his marriage is over, but he isn’t ready to move on. It doesn’t help matters that his ex Gabriella, a friend of Olga’s who works at the same law firm she does, is a frequent patron at the restaurant, not realizing how seeing her so often makes it difficult for Claudio to let go.

It is Olga who is the true surprise, though. She doesn’t make the best of first impressions, especially considering her backstory, but by the end of the story, I liked her quite a bit. It helps that she never forces herself on Nicoletta, begging her for forgiveness. Olga knows that she was a terrible mother for choosing a man and her career over her own daughter and doesn’t pretend otherwise. Instead, she rebuilds her relationship with Nicoletta in more subtle ways, like renting her an apartment, buying her presents, and just being there when Nicoletta needs somebody to talk to, offering advice as a friend, rather than a mother.

This title is very low-key, with a definite slice-of-life vibe. There’s not a whole lot of drama going on, as all the characters are pretty likeable, but there doesn’t need to be. The May-December romance between Nicoletta and Claudio is well done, and it’s nice to see Nicoletta and Olga becoming closer.

The one thing that prevents me from giving Ristorante Paradiso a higher rating is the artwork. To be perfectly blunt, it’s ugly. Hands down, the worst artwork I have ever seen in a manga. Not only are the character designs unattractive, it can be difficult at times to tell some of the restaurant employees apart, since the majority of them are older men, and they all wear glasses. No doubt Ono has a unique drawing style, but that’s really the only good thing I can say about it. I’m not a fan.

If you can get pass the dreadful artwork, though, Ristorante Paradiso is a wonderful one-shot, and I’m seriously considering giving Gente — a sequel series of sorts, focusing more on the other employees at the restaurant — a try.


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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. sylphalchemist  |  May 14, 2010 at 11:45 am

    I was interested in getting the manga after I heard it was going to be turned into an anime but I kind of hesitated due to the art ^^;

    “The May-December romance between Nicoletta and Claudio is well done, and it’s nice to see Nicoletta and Olga becoming closer”

    Yeah ~
    I was hoping there would be some good Nico x Claudio scenes in Ristorante Paradiso (was afraid nothing was going to happen between the two)

    • 2. dreamkaleidoscope  |  May 14, 2010 at 12:47 pm

      The art really is dreadful, but the story itself is good.

      To be honest, not much happens between Nicoletta and Claudio. I don’t think they even kiss, although there is an amusing scene where Nicoletta tries to jump him and Olga walks in on them. (Poor Claudio is totally flustered!) Still, they do have some really nice scenes together and they are pretty much a couple by the end.


  • 3. sylphalchemist  |  May 17, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    “Nicoletta tries to jump him and Olga walks in on them. (Poor Claudio is totally flustered!)”

    I guess if my boss’s wife walked in on me when I’m in a situation like that, I’d be freaking out too!

    “they are pretty much a couple by the end.”

    Yeah ~ that’s exactly what I was hoping for.
    When rightstuf has its VIZ sale, I’ll definitely add this to the shopping cart ~ :3

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