It is time for the final course in our extended meal at the Ristorante Paradiso.
What They Say
Italy, Rome. When she was a child, Nicoletta was taken in by her grandmother so that her mother could remarry. Now grown up, she leaves everything in the countryside behind to visit her mother and her mother's second husband, a restaurant owner. To her surprise, her stepfather did not know his wife had a daughter!
A restaurant she had previously visited, Casetta dell'orso is hosted by a cast of dreamy, cool gentlemen who all happen to wear glasses. This curious restaurant's staff include cameriere (waiters) Claudio, Luciano, and Vito, GiGi the sommelier, and chefs Furio and Teo. Because women find the staff so enchanting, business is bustling and reservations are extremely hard to come by at this little Roman treasure.
Amongst all this, Nicoletta decides, on a whim, to work at the restaurant. Gradually, she begins to become interested in one of the gentlemen...
Delicious food and dreamy gentlemen await at the Ristorante Casetta dell'orso. For everyone who works there, a tender connection to the hearts of each visitor is spun, and the curtain raises on a story about these first-rate Italian gentlemen in spectacles.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Episode 11: The People of the Restaurant
As we get to the final episode, it seems like we will finally be getting some resolution to the little strands of plot that have been scattered throughout. It seems that the fight that Nicoletta is having with Gabrielle over Claudio's heart will finally see some resolution, and it does: Gabrielle will stop torturing Claudio by coming around the restaurant so often, and Claudio is slowly coming around to the idea of taking off his wedding ring and allowing the past to become the past.
The other major strand, the secret of Olga and Nicoletta's relationship, also seems to be headed for a resolution. While Olga was, in her estimation, a horrible mother, she has slowly come to appreciate her daughter not as a burdensome secret to be hidden, but a person for whom she feels some affection.
Things come to a head as the restaurant prepares for a special private party to celebrate Olga's birthday. Nicoletta is working hard on preparing a special dish for her mother, all the while being strongly affected by Claudio's refusal to let go of his past relationship with Gabrielle and Olga's worries about her secret being revealed. In the end, on the night of the party, it will not be Nicoletta who finally reveals the nature of her relationship with Olga to Lorenzo, nor will it be Claudio, who has known of the relationship from early on. When the special dish (a birthday cake) that Nicoletta has made for her is presented to Olga, Olga herself, suddenly overcome with emotion, blurts out a "confession" to Lorenzo, admitting that Nicoletta is actually her daughter. Lorenzo, contrary to what we had been led to believe, takes it all very calmly in stride, and reveals that he had known all along, since the two women had the same smile. What he had wanted to know was why Olga felt the need to keep it secret. While he never really wanted to marry a woman who had children, he does not mind that Olga had a child in the past, and is fully accepting of Nicoletta, since she is Olga's daughter. Alone later, Nicoletta speaks to Claudio about how she understands her mother's fear of rejection, a fear that she shares, and Claudio tells her that she does not need to fear rejection either.
The final little strand, of course, gets tied up shortly after, when a few days later, Claudio and Gabrielle meet in a coffee bar. Claudio does what was pretty much expected for some time: he takes off the ring (which reveals an interior inscription: "Claudio e Gabrielle," Claudio and Gabrielle). He also apologizes for taking so long to let go when Gabrielle had managed to move on with her life so long ago. In the final act, perhaps we can consider this the dessert to our meal, Claudio happens upon Nicoletta shopping in the farmer's market and she finally notices that he has removed the ring. She invites him over to her place for a meal, and thus we see the two head off together.
Every now and then, we come across an anime title that is definitely aimed at a slightly more mature crowd, such as Honey & Clover, a title that does not feature unusually talented or supernaturally gifted teenagers piloting giant robots or using fantastical powers to beat off evil organizations and super villains bent upon conquering and controlling or destroying the universe. Nor does it have unrealistically endowed female high school students being romantically persued by other high school students, while wacky hi-jinks occur. Ristorante Paradiso is one of those refreshing diversions from the norm in anime, so much of which is aimed at a teenaged or younger crowd. In many ways, it's more like a nighttime drama, perhaps a little soap opera-ish, that would actually work very well as a one-hour drama playing around 9-10 pm, back when TV actually showed scripted shows and was not inundated with a plethora of cheap unscripted fare that pretends to be fresh and exciting, but most often fails to be either. Not that Ristorante Paradiso is a non-stop action thrill ride either. It is much more a quiet, almost introspective look at the often messy lives that real people can have: divorce, separation, the little lies we tell to get what we want, and the haunting consequences that can follow such lies. All of these things help to make this show a welcome break from the monotony of Big Mouthed Small Eyed teenage fluff that overwhelmingly dominates the anime landscape, at least as far as what is normally available in North America through legal channels.
If you're looking for another show that features super-powered teenagers fighting against…whatever, or super-endowed teenagers fighting against the hordes trying to get their attention, this might be a show that you would be interested in seeking out. If you are interested in character studies of flawed individuals, and how communities can be built out of the strangest of connections (one woman's weird fetish for older men wearing glasses), then you might be interested in seeing this show. If you want to see non-stop action with explosions (whether technologically or supernaturally caused) or want to see another comedy set in a high school environment, you will likely want to pass, but I would suggest that you at least watch an episode or two, even if bored to tears, just to get a taste of what anime can do besides breasts and bombs.
Japanese 2.0 Language; English subtitles.
Apple Mac Mini with 1GB RAM, Mac OS 10.5 Leopard.