21-year-old Nicoletta goes to Rome to confront her mother, Olga, and tell Olga's current husband, Lorenzo, owner of Ristorante Casetta Dell'Orso (lit. "Bear's Tiny House") that Olga is not only previously divorced, but is the mother of a grown daughter- facts which Olga has been carefully concealing from him. Olga manages to persuade Nicoletta to not do this, and Nicoletta manages to secure a position at the Ristorante as kitchen help. Over time, she grows attached to the staff- all men over 50, who all (at Olga's suggestion) wear glasses, and all of whom seem to magnetically attract women. Nicoletta is particularly fond of one waiter, named Claudio, though isn't quite sure how to approach him- since his ex-wife, who he's not completely over, still hangs around him.
When a young woman marries a rich older man, one naturally has certain suspicions that her motives might include others besides love. When a young woman falls in love with, or marries, a NOT-rich older man, her motives might be more honorable and sincere, but in terms of risk/benefits for her, things are quite a bit more problematic. There are always the issues of differing attitudes and values between generations, but there's also the fact that the woman is very likely to end up attending a sickly husband for a long time, then have to go through a lengthy period of grief and mourning, and then, if she desires companionship again, have to re-enter the social scene as what our culture, in its perversity, somehow considers a less-desirable commodity. Women whose interest is primarily money can overlook these obstacles in pursuit of the long game, but for women who care enough to marry an older man for love, they're very real problems. I think this colored my view of Ristorante Paradiso a bit.
One of the staff members of Casetta Dell'Orso is already in such a marriage when the show starts, a waiter named Vito. I won't dwell much on him, though at least his bald head makes him easily recognizable. One problem I had with this show is that at least three or four of the staff have very similar appearances (exacerbated by the fact that they all wear glasses), so I sometimes had a little trouble recognizing them.
While I'm critiquing the art here, I'll also note that the characters' mouths are drawn very wide, which in some cases looks quite ugly, particularly on the women. The more distant structures in the Rome background are rendered in a dreamy watercolor-like style I've seen in other shows adapted from romantic manga (e.g., Sweet Blue Flowers), but the nearer walls and structures are done with detailed 3D CG graphics. These days the contrast between these two styles isn't as noticeable in a frame as it used to be, but you can spot it.
The show has a few themes it wants to pursue. One is the revelation of how the Ristorante came together- which members of the staff knew each other before coming to work for Dell'Orso, and in what context. (Some of Claudio's backstory shows that a series can have Mature Themes without fanservice, or nudity, or even sex per se.) Between the backstory shows, and the ones featuring the currently-running events in the Ristorante, I have three favorites, even if I consider two of them slightly flawed. The first is one featuring a philandering husband (no, neither he nor the wife he's cheating on are part of Dell'Orso, but they DO cross paths.) The second is the surprising (actually shocking) connection between Lorenzo and Gigi, the Ristorante's taciturn sommelier. I would have liked this one a little more if Gigi had had a little more reaction to a tragedy that literally happens before his eyes; I KNOW the guy has issues here, but THIS seemed a bit much.
The third favorite (sort of) is the ending. Like Sweet Blue Flowers, the series runs a relatively short number of episodes, and the ending chapters could have used some expansion; but UNLIKE Sweet Blue Flowers, this one DOES have an actual ending; it's just a really rushed one. And as for that issue I had at the start of the review...
Anyway, here are the show's Dramatis Personae, and short takes on same:
Nicoletta- The "good kid but wet behind the ears" type; most of the show is from her POV. Her assertiveness comes and goes.
Claudio- Waiter. Poor guy, perpetual victim of women. Has a fantastic memory for patron's details (like birthdays), but he was once prevailed upon in an unseemly fashion (we'll call it that) by a female patron; then married a woman named Gabrielle- they divorced, but he has lingering feelings for her that have left him in an emotional limbo; may be the target of yet another female now.
Olga- Lorenzo's wife, Nicoletta's mom. Whether she reforms/confesses or not, I will NEVER forgive this woman for having her daughter raised by HER mom (Nicoletta's grandmother) just so she could marry a guy who didn't want divorcees or kids. Olga's a complete phony and unfit parent, let's face it.
Lorenzo- Owner of Dell'Orso, Olga's husband. Seems pleasant, but says little. Runs a winery as well as the restaurant.
Gigi- Full name's actually Gian Luigi Orsini. Sommelier. Says even less than Lorenzo. Often seen with face stuffed with food.
Luciano- Waiter. Very curt and harsh with Nicoletta. Some series explain exactly what the chip is on a character's shoulder (e.g., Gakuen Alice), some do not. Luciano's a widower. Has a daughter; he frequently babysits her son.
Furio- Cook. Married to a woman named Angela, which involves yet ANOTHER Claudio hard-luck story, but I won't go into details. He seems to have mellowed out quite a bit from the version of him we see in flashbacks.
Vito- Already mentioned. Wife is Marina, who's Nicoletta's age.
Teo- Another cook. Seems to hate Nicoletta's culinary efforts, and savagely critiques them. Needs to be reminded he might be no Iron Chef himself.
That's our cast. The art I've already mentioned. The light-jazz opening song, and the closing ballad, are fine but not wonderful. The Recommendation is another series with a young woman with an absentee mom who achieves self-realization through work in a commercial establishment.
I almost went five stars here; this is a fine adaptation of what seems to be a solid manga series, and as I said the philanderer, the Lorenzo/Gigi backstory, and the general thrust of the ending are very good drama. But there are some dry stretches, that ending seemed rushed, and some of the motivations of the characters (e.g., Luciano) could have stood more exposition. And there's that whole May-December (or is it more like March-November here?) thing, which DID bother me a little. As I said in the review of Looking Up At The Half Moon, you may BELIEVE love conquers all, but in time the real world can kick that belief in the teeth pretty badly, especially for the unprepared. Or maybe Grampa is just being cynical again. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: That scene in Claudio's flashback startled ME, even though sometimes when you're a single male you kind of WISH for something like that to happen. No nudity or fanservice whatever, though. 16+ might be good.
Version(s) Viewed: Streaming on Crunchyroll.
Review Status: Full (11/11)
Ristorante Paradiso © 2009 David Production
|© 1996-2015 THEM Anime Reviews. All rights reserved.|