Australia

Sisto Malaspina: The cafe owner who has stirred Melbourne's grief

Sisto Malaspina with staff in Pellegrini's Image copyright AFP
Image caption Sisto Malaspina was a well-known cafe owner in central Melbourne

For more than 40 years, Sisto Malaspina served up coffee, cake and smiles to the countless people who entered his famous cafe in the heart of Melbourne.

But earlier this month, while on an afternoon break, Mr Malaspina was murdered in a terror attack about 400m (1,300 feet) from his cafe.

The 74-year-old was stabbed alongside two men who suffered injuries but survived. The attacker was shot dead by police.

On Tuesday, Mr Malaspina's customers were among hundreds of people who gathered to remember him at a state funeral in Australia's largest church.

It follows much public grief - and a vast number of tributes - for the popular co-owner of Pellegrini's, one of Melbourne's best-known cafes.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mourners were asked to wear bright colours to remember Mr Malaspina

His son, David Malaspina, led the tributes in Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral.

"Never would we have thought that our beloved dad would reach out and have such an impact to so many," he said.

'Remarkable' figure

Sisto Malaspina migrated to Australia from Italy in the 1960s, and has been celebrated for helping to shape Melbourne's cafe culture.

In 1974 he became co-owner of Pellegrini's - one of the first cafes to have an espresso machine in the city.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews described Mr Malaspina as a "remarkable Victorian, who brought love, life, colour and flavour to our city".

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Flowers were left outside Pellegrini's in the days after Mr Malaspina's death

In the days following the tragedy, many former customers posted memories of meeting Mr Malaspina.

Among them were actor Russell Crowe and Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten.

Many tributes have referred to Mr Malaspina's kindness, sense of humour and even his "out-there" fashion. Outside his cafe, customers queued to lay flowers and sign a condolence book.

There have also been calls to rename an adjoining laneway in his honour.

'An Australian story'

Speaking at his funeral, Governor of Victoria Linda Dessau said she recalled her own childhood visits to Pellegrini's for cake and Italian food.

Ms Dessau said Mr Malaspina had put in "incredible hard work" and 70-hour weeks to ensure he prospered after migrating. He also built a sense of community, she added.

"Sisto Malaspina's story is an Australian story," she said.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Malaspina migrated to Australia in the 1960s

David Malaspina said his father's experience showed "why Melbourne is the best city in the world".

"Our great country has been blessed with waves of migrants from all corners of the globe," he said.

"These people bring their dreams with them in search of a better life. Dad loved Melbourne with a passion, and was so proud to live in this unique and wonderful city."

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