Flowers for ‘happiest’ man
ICONIC cafe owner Sisto Malaspina was yesterday remembered as “the happiest person you could imagine”, as Melbourne wept for the immigrant trailblazer of its famous coffee culture.
A sea of flowers has been laid outside Pellegrini’s Bar, the 74-year-old’s Bourke Street cafe, as the city tried to comprehend the loss of one of its most-loved figures.
The cafe owner was just a few hundred metres from his restaurant when terrorist Hassan Shire Ali blew up his ute in Bourke Street.
Mr Malaspina was one of the closest people to the explosion and may have gone to help Shire Ali, but was instead stabbed in the neck, according to witnesses.
A single mum desperately performed CPR on Mr Malaspina after she saw him fall.
But the stab wound just above his collarbone had punctured a major artery, causing him to lose blood too quickly, the former trainee nurse said. She said there was no chance he could survive the wound.
“I know I did everything I could to try to save this poor man,” she said.
“I made the sign of the cross on his forehead and said, ‘I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, at least you are now at peace’. The last bit was peaceful but everything else was violent.
“I had to wipe the blood off his brow, I needed to give him that dignity because his face was so kind.”
Mr Malaspina welcomed his first grandchild just over a week ago.
The hardworking Italian immigrant was still a fixture in his traditional Italian cafe, and had been for more than four decades, working up to 70 hours a week.
Nino Pangrazio, his co-owner in Pellegrini’s — the first Melbourne cafe to have an espresso machine and which had become a tourist attraction in the city — was distraught. “Such a sad day for Melbourne. He loved life. He was always happy. Never a bad word, never a dull moment,” he said yesterday. “The happiest person you could imagine. Always had a smile. Always had a smile for a pretty face, always with a joke.”
Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe, Wiggle Anthony Field, Olympian Tamsyn Lewis, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten were among those who paid tribute.
Mr Shorten laid a wreath at the cafe which Mr Malaspina, who arrived in Australia in 1963, took over in 1974.