Hail to the Food
By Jill Koenigsdorf
Right on Magnolia Avenue in the heart of Larkspur stands Emporio Rulli, a bakery that offers a mini-vacation to Italy without the fuss of leaving Marin. The marble counters, the espresso machines, the DeSimone pottery in the windows, the back room filled with edible Italian treasures, the gelato and candies and pastries in the middle room, the panini stacked tidily in the case waiting to be warmed for you in the first room where you enter, the mirrored walls so you can watch someone surreptitiously--it's all so dolce vita.
Owner Gary Rulli apprenticed in Milan 20 years ago and even carried some of the mother yeast, the pastry starter, back to California where it is still doing its job today, leavening Rulli's most popular pastry, the pannetoni. And while there are a few more Emporia Rullis now--at the airport, in San Francisco--the headquarters is still this 15-year-old storefront in Larkspur, where all the baking is done.
While many of its tasty cookies and pastries are worthy of rhapsodizing over, Rulli is unique in its ingenious shrinking of a traditional and beloved pastry, thereby enhancing its appeal. In France they are called palmiers ("palm trees"), in Italy, ventaglies ("fans"), but what they share is a lot of butter, a sticky sweet glaze and a feather-weight flakiness that showers your front with delectable crumbs at each bite. But who wants to waste, let alone wear, these morsels? So Rulli has reduced the typically hand-sized ventaglie to the size of a doubloon, thus making it shed less while infinitely increasing its addictiveness. He sells over 600 a week, and after you pop one in your mouth and lick the sticky traces off your fingertips, you'll know why.
Emporio Rulli, 464 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur. Open daily until 5:30pm. 1.888.88.RULLI.
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From the December 8-14, 2004 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.