Melbourne terror attack victim was iconic coffee shop owner with 'big heart'

A coffee shop icon who had a “great heart” has been named as the victim of the Melbourne terror attack.

Sisto Malaspina, 74, was brutally stabbed as crazed Somali-born Hassan Khalif Shire Ali set fire to a truck laden with gas cylinders, before stabbing three bystanders.

The café he owned, Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar, was today laden with flowers and condolence notes as customers mourned the man credited to pioneering the area’s famous coffee culture.

The popular restaurant is a cosy corner bar with 50s-style chequerboard tiles on the floor, but is now closed as customers gather outside.

“Sisto, il mio cuore si spezza,” Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe wrote on Twitter, using the Italian for “my heart breaks.”

Sisto Malaspina and Nino Pangrazio entertaining customers in Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar in Melbourne
(Image: AFP/Getty Images)
Sisto Malaspina was stabbed by a crazed Somali knifeman
(Image: JAMES ROSS/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

“I’ve been going to Pellegrini’s since 1987. Never been to Melbourne without dropping in on my man,” Crowe wrote, one of many celebrities to pay their tributes.

An Italian immigrant, Malaspina took over the café with business partner Nino Pangrazio in 1974.

They have hardly changed a thing about it since – serving espresso coffee and fresh pasta that Malaspina said in the video learned to cook from his grandmother.

“Pellegrini’s has witnessed a lot of change over its 60-odd years – but embraced very little of it,” Hospitality Magazine said in a 2017 profile.

Mourners pay their respects outside of Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar
(Image: JAMES ROSS/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
Sisto Malaspina was a Melbourne coffee icon
(Image: AFP/Getty Images)

Malaspina is quoted as saying in the article: “This is the way food should be done. It’s not contemporary food. It’s secular, traditional, home cooking.”

Brendan Nottle, who has worked in an office across the street for two decades, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: “Everyone on this end of the city knew him.

“He had huge personality. He was always up and about, almost theatrical, in Pellegrini’s. He was a guy with a great heart.”

Rod Patterson was walking down the street with his wife, Maree, when he saw what was happening and tried to help others.

Rod Patterson has been hailed a hero for trying to stop the crazed attacker
(Image: ABC)

He was stabbed in the head – but miraculously survived and is recovering in hospital.

Mr Patterson, a Tasmanian, was known to the state’s Premier Will Hodgman, who described him as a characteristically brave man known for his kindness.

“It’s not surprising he would step in to help others, we all wish him well,” he said.

“A nicer bloke you wouldn’t meet.”

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