news

Everything we know about the man who died in the Melbourne terror attack.

Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar ought to be crowded with patrons bustling for a cup of its famous coffee or a bowl of refreshing granita. Instead, the Melbourne CBD restaurant is closed today, and its customers and staff in mourning.

Co-owner, local icon Sisto Malaspina, has been named by media as the victim of the Friday afternoon terror attack at Bourke Street Mall.

The 74-year-old was one of three people stabbed by Hassan Khalif Shire Ali, a Somali-born man from the city’s northern suburbs who was known to federal intelligence authorities. The other victims, two men aged 24 and 58, are recovering in hospital.

Malaspina’s business partner, Nino Pangrazio, learned the tragic news last night. The pair had been in business together since 1974, having struck up a friendship a decade earlier.

“He was just so happy-go-lucky, and always with a smile. We hardly had a cross word in the whole time we worked together. Just devastated,” he told Fairfax Media.

“He was a wonderful partner… and the staff just cannot believe it. Many, many tears have been shed.”

According to the outlet, Malaspina had only recently become a grandfather.

Pellegrini’s is somewhat of an institution in Melbourne, and counts celebrities and politicians among its regulars. From federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, to television personality Julia Zemiro and ABC anchor Virginia Trioli.

Today, many have laid flowers outside its Bourke Street shopfront and shared memories on social media.

Among the common threads in the grief-laden messages are Malspina’s dedication to his business, generosity to his customers and his pride at his Italian roots.

ADVERTISEMENT

“You could never ask Sisto for a latte – he would tell you it’s ‘caffe’ latte!” MP for Batman Ged Kearney remembered fondly on Twitter. “And if you asked for skinny milk he would just say ‘No!’”

Victorian Attorney-General Martin Pakula added, “The last time I saw Sisto we took our coffees & a bit of cake up to the landing above the loo. He grabbed me a kitchen chair & a milk crate as a table. He sat on the step, told me about being a ‘nonno’ & how he might get a city pad. Then he wouldn’t take my money. A beautiful man.”

ADVERTISEMENT

In a video celebrating 40 years of Pellegrini’s in 2014, Malaspina spoke of growing up in Italy helping his nonna make gnocchi by hand – a formative experience that fostered his deep love of produce and cooking.

He moved to Australia in 1963, and after partnering with Pangrazio, the son of Italian immigrants, he was able to share that love with the people of Melbourne.

“The thing that I find very beautiful — it’s like going back 40 years, little children that were in their mother’s tummy then come in as a baby, now they come in with their own children. That’s so wonderful,” he said.

“I love people, especially Pellegrini’s customers – the best in the world.”

00:00 / ???