Nicoletta is now a regular visitor to the restaurant staff meals by the start of episode 2 of Ristorante Paradiso, “Ring”. It is also pretty much set in stone by now that Nicoletta is supposed to be the daughter of a friend of Olga’s, which makes it that much harder for Nicoletta to reveal that she’s the daughter of Olga. In a phone call with her grandmother, Nicoletta complains about her mother, but she also wants to talk about a potential love interest to which the grandmother suggests that Nicoletta talk with Olga. This is no surprise since the grandmother recommended that Nicoletta come to Rome to reconcile with her mother.
While thinking about what kind of work she should do while she stays in Rome, Nicoletta heads to the “casetta dell’orso”, only to find it closed. This has her walking around Rome at random, which is when she comes across Luciano. It seems that he has a regular gathering when the restaurant is not open with GiGi and Francesco, the latter being a kid they know. Nicoletta volunteers to cook for the gathering, which is good enough that Luciano does not outright criticize it and the normally silent GiGi even says it’s good. However, Luciano and GiGi are oddly reluctant to talk about Claudio or his family when Nicoletta asks whether Claudio also joins the gathering on occasion.
Luciano asking Nicoletta about what she plans to do for work has her thinking about getting a job, but for now she intends to focus on her potential love interest in Claudio. When it unexpectedly starts raining while Nicoletta and Claudio are at the restaurant with no umbrellas, Luciano offers the two his umbrella (Luciano may be quite gruff on the outside, but he seems to have his own subdued kindness). As Nicoletta and Claudio walk through the rain, Nicoletta learns that Claudio had separated from his wife a few years ago, which breaks down the biggest obstacle that was stopping Nicoletta from approaching Claudio as a love interest.
Out of the rain and at Nicoletta’s apartment, Nicoletta is preparing coffee for herself and Claudio. She’s seriously interested in Claudio but is still conflicted whether it’s really love or whether it would be OK for her to love someone much older than herself. Claudio is not entirely clueless about Nicoletta’s interest, and he is somewhat nervous. His nervousness is quite justified as Nicoletta decides to confirm her feelings by jumping the helpless Claudio, going as far as almost taking off his shirt, and she’s satisfied that her feelings are real.
So it’s an awkward moment when Olga picks this moment to visit Nicoletta and sees her almost jumping Claudio. With things somewhat back to normal, Nicoletta and Olga nicely ask Claudio to leave them so they can talk, and it’s striking how much they look like daughter and mother. For some reason, Olga is oddly unhappy about Nicoletta showing an interest in Claudio, even going so far as to suggest Luciano and Teo as a potential love interest instead. And when the subject of work comes up, Nicoletta gets the idea to work at the “casetta dell’orso” and blackmails her mother into getting her the job, promising not to tell Olga’s husband that she is Olga’s daughter.
This is how Nicoletta gets to be an apprentice at the “casetta dell’orso” where she will be developing her cooking skills. Of course, she’s not supposed to come out of the kitchen. Nicoletta is also going to take lessons from Furio’s cooking classes. By working at the restaurant, she gets double benefits, where she gets to stay close to Claudio and develop a career as a cook. Claudio is still nervous about what happened the previous night, but he’s still roped into accompanying Nicoletta in collecting some missing ingredients. This is when Nicoletta makes clear her feelings for Claudio, but she also mollifies Claudio by stating that she would restrain herself.
That night, a special guest arrives at the restaurant. It is Gabriella, Claudio’s ex-wife, and Nicoletta notices that they are on quite friendly terms with each other. As Nicoletta leaves work, she finds Claudio bidding farewell to his ex-wife, who wonders when Claudio is going to take off his wedding ring. And Nicoletta is left wondering if Claudio still loves Gabriella.
I’m finding myself quite liking Ristorante Paradiso. It reminds me of ARIA, another anime which I really enjoyed despite nothing exciting happening (or perhaps it was because of it). It was also interesting how Nicoletta’s feelings for Claudio evolved in a couple of episodes, starting from an impression as a kind gentleman to love. I would have also thought that the secret between Olga and Nicoletta was not so much of a secret, except the preview for the next episode shows Claudio being comically surprised when Nicoletta comically tells him the secret.