News State Victoria News Sisto, the man who was intrinsically ‘Melbourne’

Sisto, the man who was intrinsically ‘Melbourne’

The casket and tributes at the state funeral for Sisto Malaspina at St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne. Photo: Getty
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Though it was the darkest of days and their hearts ached awfully, those who turned out to mourn their beloved Sisto Malaspina donned the brightest colours, in memory of a man who was a light in so many lives.

From early in the morning, they stood outside the gates of St Patrick’s Cathedral, draped in vibrant scarves and coats.

The Melbourne weather, which always threatens to turn on a moment’s notice, was unable to keep the crowds away, with mourners spilling out onto the grounds of the church.

But such was the love for the 74-year-old who, as the co-owner of Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar, was an icon for lovers of coffee in a coffee-mad city.

“Never would we have thought that our beloved dad would reach out and have such an impact to so many,” said his son, David.

“We would often question him as to why he would leave to go to work so early, knowing that he would return home some 14 or 15 hours later.

“His simple reply to us was always the same, ‘My customers’. He loved his customers and staff and it would appear that they loved him back.

“We know that he had a number of customers that he saw on a day-to-day basis for many years. Just know that he didn’t consider you customers. He considered you friends. This we know for sure.”

Mr Malaspina was born in a small town in the Marche region of Italy, near the calf of the boot.

He was the youngest son and his full name, Sestilio, literally translates to number six.

“We figured that his parents must have run out of names,” David said, to laughter in the cathedral.

David Malaspina has remembered his father as a vibrant man. Photo: AAP

After arriving in Australia and marrying the love of his life, Vicky, he bought a Melbourne espresso institution – Pellegrini’s.

And so began a new adventure, one Mr Malaspina loved so much that he could be seen behind the counter for up to 80 hours a week for the next 40 years.

“Dad never did anything by halves,” David said.

Mr Malaspina became so synonymous with Melbourne that once, when he and David were visiting a small village in Italy, he was recognised by a customer.

But despite the brutal hours, Mr Malaspina was very much a family man who entertained friends and family at his beach house into the early hours of the morning.

And when they could find time, he and Vicky would go to the opera together.

Mr Malaspina was also known for his kindness and generosity.

Trucking magnate Lindsay Fox recalled how Mr Malaspina and his business partner, Nino Pangrazio, once helped him move a grand piano upstairs at his house.

“Nino and Sisto were like pepper and salt … they made that business what it is today,” Mr Fox said.

Lindsay Fox at St Patrick’s cathedral on Tuesday. Photo: AAP

“The world is a better place for having Sisto in it. He was one of the greats.

“The heart has its own memory and he shall ever live in ours.”

Businessman Harold Mitchell received applause when he removed his dark blazer and put on a bright yellow coat, to honour his friend.

He said there had been moments when he had wished he was Mr Malaspina.

“Thank you Sisto, you loved us and we loved you.”

Mr Malaspina was fatally stabbed by Islamic State-inspired terrorist Hassan Khalif Shire Ali during an attack on Friday, November 9.

Two other men were injured, while the attacker died after being shot in the chest by a police officer.

But for the Malaspina family, their father’s death has not lessened their love for the city.

“Dad is an example of why Melbourne is the best city in the world,” David said.

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

“These people bring their culture and dreams with them in search of a better life. Melbourne is a melting pot of all these cultures, making Melbourne magical.

“Dad loved Melbourne with a passion and was so proud to live in this unique and wonderful city.”