‘We will love you forever’: Pellegrini’s restaurant co-owner killed in Bourke St attack
Melbourne's inner city community is remembering "one-in-a-million" Pellegrini's Espresso Bar co-owner Sisto Malaspina, who was killed by a terrorist on Bourke Street on Friday.
Mr Malaspina, 74, died after he was attacked by 30-year-old Somali-born Hassan Khalif Shire Ali, who crashed his vehicle loaded with gas bottles in the Melbourne CBD and stabbed three people before he was shot by police and died in hospital.
Eyewitnesses said it appeared Mr Malaspina was walking over to the car after it burst into flames to offer assistance, when he was stabbed in the chest.
The Melbourne institution was closed today and floral tributes were assembled in the window, accompanied by a hand-written sign paying tribute to the "best boss".
"Sisto — thank you for making us your staff members as part of your life," the sign reads.
"You always looked after us like family.
"You always said to have fun at work because we all worked so hard.
"Pellegrini's was your life. We will never forget all that you have done and given us all. We will love you forever and ever in our hearts."
The Salvation Army's Brendan Nottle, who has occupied the office across from Pellegrini's for more than 20 years, said Mr Malasani's loss would leave a "massive hole" in the community.
"He was an institution, everyone on this end of the city knew him," he said.
"He had huge personality, he was always up and about, almost theatrical in Pellegrini's.
"He was a guy with a great heart, he always looked after people and it was amazing to see people from all walks of life really warm to him."
Allyson Fonseca was one of many regular diners at Pellegrini's, and said Mr Malaspina was a "genuine icon of Melbourne".
"He was just so giving and I'm not surprised he went to the aid of the attacker in his burning car because he was just such a giving soul," she said.
Mr Nottle said he didn't believe the café would ever be the same without him.
"I think he was one in a million," he said.
"It's almost like a village, most people know each other, we've known each other for a long time, I think his passing is going to have a huge impact on this part of the city."
Mr Malaspina was born in Italy and came to Australia in 1963.
He took over Pellegrini's with his friend Nino Pangrazio in 1974.
In a video to celebrate 40 years of their ownership of the restaurant in 2014, Mr Malaspina spoke of his love for his customers and business partner.
"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. They are the best in the world."
Fifty-eight-year-old Tasmanian Rod Patterson — described as "the sort of man who would be first to step in and try to help" — is in a stable condition in Royal Melbourne Hospital following surgery for lacerations, as is a 24-year-old Hampton Park man.
Shire Ali died in hospital after being shot by police as he lunged towards them with a knife.
Social media has also been flooded with tributes to Mr Malasini, as Melburnians and visitors alike remember his generosity.
Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe said he had been frequenting Mr Malaspina's restaurant since 1987.
External Link: Russell Crowe on Twitter: Sisto, il mio cuore si spezza … Ive been going to Pellegrinis since 1987. Never been to Melbourne without dropping in on my man Sisto . South Sydney stickers on the wall and caps on display. My sweet loyal friend, stabbed in the street by a mad man. Cosí triste.
The Wiggles' Anthony Field said Mr Malaspina was a great man who will be missed by all.
Olympian Tamsyn Lewis Manou said she was devastated by the news.
External Link: Tamsyn Lewis on Twitter: Devestated by the news that Pellegrinis owner Sisto Malaspina was the victim of the attack in Melbourne yesterday.Angry because a good man was trying to help another human & shattered for what is a huge loss to Melbourne cities heart beat…thoughts to family & friends #RIPSisto