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.
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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.