The clink of coffee cups and the swoosh of the espresso machine pierced the quiet at Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar as the Melbourne institution reopened for the first time after co-owner Sisto Malaspina died in a terror attack.
The stool at the bar where the 74-year-old would sit is empty. A coffee, newspaper and candle sat on the bench as scores of people lined up for a coffee to pay their respects after the doors opened just before 8am.
Even the Prime Minister Scott Morrison arrived mid-morning and mingled with staff and customers.
“It’s been a good experience, a strange experience. I see today as the beginning of the celebration of Sisto’s life. You can only cry so much,” his nephew Rob Cecchini told AAP on Tuesday.
“I’m sure he would have wanted us all to do just that – celebrate his life.”
Mr Cecchini said seeing his uncle’s empty stool was difficult but he was trying to “push through”.
“Bearing in mind, the whole episode hasn’t really sunk in with us yet, with the family,” he said.
“We still haven’t come to terms with it, we just haven’t come to terms with it yet.”
But the community support, scores of people coming into the bar and thousands of flowers lining the adjacent Crossley Street, was comforting, he said.
“Obviously, I knew what sort of a man my uncle was, but when you see the tributes and all the flowers … it’s just unbelievable, it’s beautiful, he’s a very, very special man.”
Others who lined up for coffee said it was important to honour such a kind and special man.
Mr Malaspina was killed and two other men were injured when 30-year-old Hassan Khalif Shire Ali drove a burning ute into the city and launched a knife attack on Friday.
The restaurateur died in the street while police shot Shire Ali, who died later in hospital.
Mr Malaspina had co-owned Pellegrini’s since 1974 and both the man with a “flamboyant personality” and venue became Melbourne icons.
A state funeral will be held for Mr Malaspina next week.