Heart-Wrenching Scenes As Pellegrini's Espresso Bar Reopens With Tributes To Late Owner
Pellegrini's Espresso Bar reopened on Tuesday morning after the cafe's co-owner Sisto Malaspina was killed in a terror attack on Friday.
The cafe is a Melbourne institution, but has been closed since his death as Sisto's family and staff mourn the loss of a much-loved member of the community.
Before the cafe opened, staff cleared the hundreds of flowers and cards placed outside the wooden doors and moved some of them inside the shop, as they continue to remember the man known for his warm service and kind hospitality.
The remainder snaked from the shopfront around the corner and up the street, displaying the widespread loss felt by cafe regulars and visitors alike.
Staff attended an emotional meeting before the scheduled 8am opening and a note in the window from workers described Sisto as "the best boss".
Throughout the day's trade on Tuesday, long black coffees -- Sisto's favourite-- will be served for free.
Patrons were waiting outside the cafe as Sisto's business partner Nino Pangrazio opened the doors. Pargrazio was greeted with hugs and handshakes as people flocked in to enjoy a coffee in Sisto's honour.
At the bar drinking a latte, sat Sisto's nephew Rob Cecchini. He said he wanted the reopening to be the start of the celebration of his uncle's life.
"He was great... this feels like the beginning of the celebration of his life ... I'm sure he would have wanted us to celebrate his life. You can only cry so much," Cecchini said.
Cecchini also said his wider family, while determined to remember Sisto fondly, are still trying to accept their loss.
"It still hasn't sunk in. It hasn't hit home yet. It hasn't landed yet. You can't process it," he said.
Other friends and regulars were among the first through the doors of Pellegrini's Bar.
"[It's] empty, empty," good friend of Sisto, Morris Sikorski told media on Tuesday as he enjoyed a coffee at the Bar.
"The place is not going to be the same without him. He is a Melbourne icon and he was one of the most revered persons ... it's an empty feeling," he said.
Carol Andrades frequents the cafe for coffee almost every morning, so she came to know Sisto and the staff well. She said there was a feeling of huge loss as the shop reopened on Tuesday.
"There is a tremendous sense of unreality but also tremendous community and strength and I think Sisto would have loved that because he extended his welcome to everyone from every country, every walk of life. He was a wonderful man," Andrades told media.
Sisto arrived in Australia from Italy more than 40 years ago and had been running his espresso bar since taking over from the Pellegrini Brothers in 1974. Over the years, Pellegrini's became a go-to Melbourne landmark for celebrities, politicians and locals alike.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison visited Pellegrini's Bar on Tuesday morning, where he too paid his respects to Sisto and his family. Morrison also left a bunch of flowers at the cafe with a note that described Sisto as the "beating heart of Melbourne".
Opposition leader Bill Shorten visited the shopfront on Saturday where he left a message of sympathy for the family.
Sisto's family accepted the Victorian Government's offer for a State Funeral on Monday.
"We are deeply moved by all the flowers, gifts and condolences,” Sisto's family said in a statement.
“To the people of Melbourne, your heartfelt tributes have shown us why our Dad loved this great city so much."
Sisto Malaspina's funeral will be held next week.
Featured Image: AAP.
Contact Siobhan at skenna@ networkten.com.au