A charming tale of a mother/daughter reunion, a burgeoning romance, and a little restaurant in Rome. In exchange for playing “the daughter of an old friend,” Olga offers Nicoletta a place to live and an apprenticeship at the restaurant. Nicoletta fits in well among the vibrant personalities at Casetta Dell’Orso. She gets along particularly well with the kindly headwaiter, Claudio, a divorced man who, after years, has still never taken off his wedding ring. As Nicoletta’s feelings for Claudio become complicated, she finds a sympathetic ear in Olga, leading the estranged pair to form a friendship neither expected. But as they grow closer, the pressure exerted by the secret they share becomes too much to bear. (Courtesy of Goodreads)
Once upon a time, I watched the anime Ristorante Paradiso and fell in love with the series. I was surprised at how much this anime has made a good impression on me because, at the time, I primarily watched shōjo and shōnen anime which are made for the younger demographic. I adored the story for being simple, sweet and touching. So when I found that Viz Media had published the Gente series as a lovely Viz Signature I went out and bought the first volume.
Review |★ ★ ★ ★
Imagine a quaint little restaurant located on the charming streets of Rome. Inside the tables are occupied to maximmum capacity and appetizing Italian food are catered by handsomely mature bespectacled gentlemen. This is the kind of restaurant Nicoletta waltz into in Ristorante Paradiso.
When in Rome…This manga is a nice slice-of-life romance about a young woman named Nicoletta who travels to Rome in order to confront the man her mother remarried. As a young child, Nicoletta’s mother her left to be raised by her grandparents with this as her reason: “There’s a man I’m destined to be with. But he’ll never marry a divorced woman”. (This is not really a spoiler because this is explained within the first few pages). Now at age 21, Nicoletta travels to Rome to meet her mother’s husband, which is why she finds herself outside of Casetta dell’Orso and where our story begins.
Like mother, like daughter. Nicoletta’s relationship with her mother is interesting to say the least. After basically being abandoned as a child, it’s easy to understand Nicoletta’s resentment towards their mother. Due to some circumstances, Nicoletta doesn’t outright say she is he mother’s child and instead plays the “daughter of a friend” role. I appreciate that this story isn’t all about hating her estranged mother, but instead mother and daughter trying to rekindle their lost relationship.
“Most of our guest are here for the waiters. Our customers share a particular weakness for handsome gentlemen.”
Left to Right: Furio, Teo, Claudio, Luciano , Gigi and Vito
Ladies, eat your heart out! The story is set primarily in the ever popular restaurant, Casetta dell’Orso. This restuarant is popular for two reasons: 1) The food. 2) The staff. Now I think one of the selling points of Ristorante Paradiso is definitely the abundance of charming bespectacled gentlemen. While I wouldn’t call this story a reverse harem (all the guys don’t fall for the female protagonist), the readers could easily pick out a favorite if they wanted to. I would say that Ristorante Paradiso is the Ouran High School Host Club equivalent for older woman. What’s nice about this manga is that we do get some insight on all the characters (some more than others). Everyone has a personality and story behind them fleshing out their character.
City of love. Now, I know that Paris is typically the city of love, but after reading this manga I think it would be nice to fall in love in Rome. Nicoletta falls in love in the insta-love kind of way, but being a short romance prequel manga to the series I didn’t really mind. Like her mother, Nicoletta feels with her heart, but she also doesn’t act rashly on it. She is constantly trying to understand if what she is feeling is simply an attraction or real love. To me, when Nicoletta acted for the sake of “love” she did it in a way that was confident and reflects how sure she is of her feelings. I really admired her personality because of it.
Would I recommend it?
I loved the anime and love being able to carry the manga with me to read whenever. So yes, I recommend it. This is a nice light read if you want to stray from the typical shōjo romance manga out there.