Some of the e-mail I receive comes from café and coffee house owners who ask me to revisit and re-review their espresso. The ones who do bother to e-mail obviously care about their espresso, so I am only happy to oblige. Last week, at the e-mail requests of both Mario and Gary Rulli (though Gary is at their main Larkspur location), I revisited the Emporio Rulli Gran Caffé on Chestnut St. in the Marina District.
Opened nearly three years ago, this is truly a classic, ornate Italian café – in the style of the grand cafés of Torino. When you first walk in, you’re dazzled by an expansive space filled with polished marble counters, dark wood finishing, a long bar, a grand chandelier, and decoratively painted walls and a painted, recessed ceiling. Spend a little more time looking around, and you’ll think to yourself, “They spared no expense.” (This is the Jurassic Park of espresso bars in San Francisco.)
The sheer investment this place must have required is staggering, but it’s the perfect anecdote for San Franciscans who have long suffered the dirty, dingy corner coffee house that feels like you’re just this shy of waiting in line at the Department of Public Welfare. Opera music, an extensive pastry counter, and a bright interior also add to the experience: this is arguably espresso’s answer to high tea at the Palace Hotel.
To help cover these “unspared” expenses, they have recently started serving dinner. There are numerous indoor tables and booths, plus a few high wooden tables with stool seating. There’s also an extensive patio for dining beneath (often necessary) heat lamps along Scott St.
Using a three-group Faema E-91 Ambassador, they serve espresso with a dark brown crema that runs a bit thin. However, they pull a properly short shot, resulting in a rich, deeply smoky, sweet molasses flavor. A very elegant espresso-drinking experience – more consistent than their Union Square location. Their milk-based drinks are quite good as well: they produce very good microfoam and respectable latte art.
While Mario and Gary Rulli were probably hoping for an improved rating, the true good news was perhaps that I found the quality to be quite consistent with my last visit there in 2004.
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