Mania Grade: B+
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- Art Rating: C+
- Packaging Rating: A-
- Text/Translation Rating: A
- Age Rating: 13 and Up
- Released By: Viz Media
- MSRP: 12.99
- Pages: 176
- ISBN: 978-1421532509
- Size: A5
- Orientation: Right to Left
- Series: Ristorante Paradiso
Ristorante Paradiso Manga Review
By Sakura Eries
March 05, 2010
Release Date: March 16, 2010
© Viz Media
A young woman heads to Rome to confront her mother and winds up falling in love with an older man.
Writer/Artist: Natsume Ono
Translation: Joe Yamazaki
Adaptation: Joe Yamazaki
What They Say
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.
Ristorante Paradiso is part of Viz’s Signature line, and they’ve done an excellent job with the packaging. The cover has flaps that open out to create a kitchen scene of Nicoletta and the six gentlemen of the ristorante. Also on the front flap is the story synopsis, and on the back flap is information about the mangaka. Printed on the inside of the cover is a mirror image of the cover illustration in orange ink with bios of the characters on the side. The character descriptions are a nice touch, but it is difficult to read the letters printed in orange against a lighter orange background.
The actual artwork isn’t what you’d call pretty though. In fact, Nicoletta looks like a man on that cover illustration. Ristorante Paradiso sounds like it could be a kind of Italian butler café manga, but you won’t be drooling over Ono-sensei’s pictures. Mouths run very large, and lines are rough and scratchy looking. The detail of the backgrounds and food is minimal as well. Still, characters are easily differentiated (even if the women do look mannish), and action and emotions conveyed well.
Printing is crisp, and the binding and pages are nice and sturdy. The translation is also satisfactory with Italian phrases sprinkled throughout.
Casetta dell’Orso is one of Rome’s most popular restaurants. The food is delicious, but most of its female clientele come for the staff, entirely comprised of older, bespectacled gentlemen.
One day, a young woman shows up for neither the food nor the staff. She’s Nicoletta, the daughter of Olga, the owner’s wife. For years, Olga has kept Nicoletta and her previous marriage a secret from her husband, but now Nicoletta is fed up and out to expose her mother. However, Nicoletta becomes intrigued by the ristorante and its head waiter Claudio especially. Wanting to get closer to him, she offers Olga a deal: her silence for an apprenticeship at the ristorante.
Ristorante Paradiso will either hook you or bore you immediately. There’s no “fate of the world depends on it” premise—just dysfunctional family dynamics and a girl seeking a relationship with a much older man who’s experienced his own disappointments in life.
Though the story starts off looking like it’s headed towards revenge, it quickly moves away from the tension between Nicoletta and her mother and focuses instead on Nicoletta’s desire to discover love for herself. That yearning opens Nicoletta’s eyes to what she calls “different shapes of love” as she observes her mother’s marriage, learns about Claudio’s past relationships, and sorts through her own feelings.
For those familiar with the anime, the manga covers all the major points of the television series. With the exception of Lorenzo and Gigi, it doesn’t include the backstory of the wait staff so you don’t get to know Furio, Teo, Vito, and Luciano as well as the others. However, there is an ad at the back of the manga for Gente: The People of Ristorante Paradiso, which I presume covers those vignettes.
The manga also ends as the anime does, which was for me a disappointment. Ono-sensei makes Lorenzo out to be the best husband in the universe, but his reaction at Olga’s birthday party made me mad, quite frankly. (After all she did, Olga deserved much worse.) That aside, Nicoletta’s personal journey alongside people in so many different stages of life (single, married, widowered, divorced) was a satisfying read. I found the manga a nice change of pace from my usual high school, first love fare.
Although the youth of its heroine might lead you to think Ristorante Paradiso has all the sugar and zip of a can of soda, the flavors of this manga are more subtle, like a vintage that must be savored to be fully enjoyed. There are outbursts here and there, but the story’s less about histrionics and more about discovering the unique personalities of the ristorante and the pasts that shaped them.
This manga is rated Teen Plus, which puzzles me. It is geared for an older audience, but there’s no nudity, no swearing, and even when Nicoletta throws herself at Claudio, they both remain fully clothed.