The family of a much-loved restaurant owner who was killed in the Melbourne terror attack have paid a moving tribute to the “beautiful man” – as his famous restaurant opens its doors for the first time since his death.
Sisto Malaspina, 74, was killed in the horrific Bourke Street terror attack on Friday after reportedly trying to help Hassan Khalif Shire Ali when he saw his car on fire – unaware of the terrible danger that would follow. He was attacked by Ali and sadly died of his injuries shortly after.
Tributes have been pouring in from fans, famous faces and friends following the news, with his restaurant Pellegrini’s closing its doors for one of the first times in its history as a mark of respect.
Now, as it opens its doors again for the first time, Mr Malaspina’s family have released a lengthy and moving tribute through Victoria Police, thanking fans for their ongoing support and confirming they have accepted Premier Daniel Andrews’s offer of a state funeral.
“We would like to thank Dad’s friends, customers, and all the wonderful people that have come forward to pay their respects and show their love and support,” they said, according to multiple reports. “We are deeply moved by all the flowers, gifts and condolences.”
Thanking the people of Melbourne for reminding them why their father loved the city so much, the family added: “To the emergency services personnel: our gratitude and appreciation for all your hard work and efforts, especially the first responders and police that put themselves in harm’s way to protect others, your bravery and heroism is a representation of the strength and solidarity of our community.
“Dad was a larger than life character and his natural generosity made every individual he met feel welcome and important.
“Each customer of Dad’s was given the same respect and service regardless of their standing in society. To him everyone was special. His love and passion for his customers remained the same for over 40 years. To him it was a joy to go to work every day.”
They went on to reveal the staff at his much-loved Pellegrini’s restaurant will now work to “continue his legacy with the same passion” and added: “He was a distinctly recognisable figure in his colourful choice of clothing and his flamboyant personality. To us he was just a beautiful man, a loving husband and a doting father.”
Andrews offered the family a state funeral following the devastating tragedy and released a statement at the time, saying: “On behalf of the Victorian Government, I offer my sincere condolences to Mr Malaspina’s beloved family and friends.
Sisto Malaspina was a Victorian icon, known and loved by us all. I spoke to his family again this morning, and they have accepted my offer of a State Funeral next week, with more details to come. Until then, our love and thoughts remain with Sisto's family.
— Daniel Andrews (@DanielAndrewsMP) November 12, 2018
“The State Funeral service will be held early next week and will be an opportunity to remember Sisto’s life on Bourke Street, not his death.”
Pellegrini’s is a well-known and much-loved establishment in Melbourne’s city centre, having been one of the first venues in the city to install an espresso machine. Mr Malaspina had been running the Bourke Street cafe since 1974.
While it closed up over the weekend as a mark of respect, it has opened its doors again now – welcoming crowds of people to watch the emotional moment, before offering Mr Malaspina’s favourite coffee, the long black, for free to all customers for the day.
It comes after Somali-born Australian Ali went on the rampage in Melbourne’s Bourke Street, stabbing three people before being shot in the chest by police.
Video footage showed him first driving his ute down Bourke Street and setting it on fire before attacking police and bystanders with a knife.
The 30-year-old, who was reportedly known to authorities, later died in hospital from his wounds. While Malaspina tragically passed away following the attack, multiple reports claimed the other two victims remain in hospital with non-life threatening injuries.