Sisto Malaspina – owner of Pellegrini’s cafe – identified as Bourke Street victim | Australia news
The man killed in Melbourne’s Bourke Street attack has been identified as the owner of a well-known Italian restaurant in the city centre.
Sisto Malaspina, who has run Bourke Street’s Pellegrini’s cafe since 1974, was fatally stabbed by Hassan Khalif Shire Ali on Friday afternoon in what is being treated as a terrorist attack.
Pellegrini’s was closed on Saturday morning, as mourners gathered outside. A shrine was set up outside the cafe’s front doors.
The Victoria police chief commissioner, Graham Ashton, said the force was still contacting family members and would not be able to formally identify the victim until Saturday afternoon. He said the victim was a 74-year-old man who worked in the city.
Considered a Melbourne institution, Pellegrini’s was one of the first venues in the city to install an espresso machine. Its proximity to the Victorian parliament has made it a popular venue among the city’s movers and shakers.
Outside Pellegrini’s on Saturday, mourners paid their respects, leaving flowers and signing a tribute book left on a bar stool that has been left at the doorstep. There were flowers at the window and a large photo of Malaspina, who owned the cafe with his business partner Nino Pangrazio.
A small sign sign on the door read: “Due to an incident, Pellegrini’s will be closed until Monday 12th.”
Brendan Nottle, the Salvation Army major has been providing services for Melbourne’s homeless at a building across the road from Pellegrini’s for about 20 years.
Nottle was down at Bourke Street after the attack on Friday helping to comfort witnesses. “We were down there when it happened for four or five hours, just handing out coffee and food and trying make sense of it, then when you find out it’s someone like Sisto, then it makes even less sense,” Nottle said.
He described Malaspina as a “big personality”. When Nottle would walk in, Malaspina would greet him with a high-five and call him the “professor”.
“We’d cross paths either in here (Pellegrini’s), and he was quite theatrical, or going across the road to get a newspaper at the newsagents,” Nottle said.
“We had a number of AFL footballers who’d help us with our work and we’d bring them in here. He’d always have a chat and tell them how good Essendon was.”
John Richardson, 53, came to Pellegrini’s with his two daughters twice a year since they were born. His parents also had their first date there in the 1950s.
“Pellegrini’s is an institution,” said Richardson, who left a bunch of flowers on the doorstop on Saturday afternoon.
“When my two kids were born over at the Mercy Hospital, I was in in the evenings and they’d sent me off to have something to eat. I came here to have dinner by myself. I’ve come here every birthday with my daughters since then, and they’re 15 and 17.”
Of Malaspina, Richardson said: “He was very warm, welcoming. He was full of life. You walked in and the place was always buzzing.
Ashton said the two others injured in the attack were a Tasmanian retiree, Rod Patterson, 58, from Launceston, and a 24-year-old security guard from Hampton Park, in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs.