FROM the street the maroon glass panels seem like an elegant apparition. "Pasticceria," one says, in gilded italic lettering framed by gold curlicue borders. "Gelateria," "Caffè," "Torrefazione," say three more, signifying that ice cream and coffee, as well as pastry, are served behind the spotless plate-glass windows, and that coffee beans are roasted on the premises.
Everything inside Emporio Rulli, too, seems like an apparition. To the right is a dark-paneled shop displaying handmade chocolates on silver trays and canisters of coffee beans on a white-marble counter. Lighted wall shelves hold decorative porcelain and quilted brocade gift boxes, wedding-cake brides and grooms, and bulbous glass bowls filled with gilded, silvered, and pastel-colored almonds. Filling another wall is an impressive selection of Italian wines. In the adjoining room -- the pastry shop proper -- are glass cases filled with dozens of miniature pastries and cookies, fruit tarts, and many kinds of freshly made gelato in deep rectangular pans. Through a wide portal is the café, with a dozen tables and a long banquette beneath a fanciful mural in the style of Tiepolo, showing bakers busily at work beside a Venetian lagoon. You can choose the sandwich or pastry that most appeals to you by pointing to it on one of the display trays, which uniformed servers constantly refill and dust to clear away crumbs and powdered sugar. Every accoutrement is typical of a first-class Italian pastry shop: the metal trays, the decorative boxes, the display cases, even the long-handled shallow spoons in the sugar bowl at the bar and the tiny napkins printed with the Emporio Rulli logo.