Tributes flowed for Malaspina, who opened the cafe 45 years ago with long-time friend and business partner Nino Pangrazio, and customers and friends left flowers outside the institution in his memory.
Now, The City of Melbourne has announced plans to install a permanent memorial outside the front of Pellegrini’s, honouring Malaspina as one of the pioneers of Melbourne’s distinct coffee culture.
The memorial will take the form of a table and three bar stools, echoing the seating at Pellegrini’s. It’ll be a space for people to sit down and reflect on his legacy. The table will feature a portrait of Malaspina drawn by illustrator Oslo Davis along with a dedication that reads:
The outpouring of grief that followed Sisto Malaspina’s death during a terror-related incident in Bourke Street would have surprised Sisto more than anyone else. Yet the response made sense: Sisto loved Melbourne – and Melbourne loved him back.
Sisto was a local icon. Co-owner of Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar since 1974, he served his customers daily with style, humour and great coffee. His signature blend included a neckerchief and loud yet strangely tasteful shirts, teamed with a winning smile and a gift for remembering both the famous and the not-so-famous.
On his last day, 9 November 2018, Sisto was off to buy chocolates for staff to celebrate the birth of his third grandchild. His love lives on.
Son David Malaspina and Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp were outside Pellegrini’s on Thursday to announce the memorial.
“Oslo has come up with a beautiful image that really encapsulates my father – with a big smile up to his eyes,” David told the media. “[It's] obviously [going to be] emotional, but we’d like to celebrate dad's life and the wonderful impact he's had, so it's more about celebrating him and looking back on what he's achieved over his lifetime."
Malaspina migrated to Australia from Italy in the 1960s. He and Pangrazio bought Pellegrini’s in 1974 (it first opened 20 years earlier) and had operated it together until the tragedy. David is currently in talks with Pangrazio, who is retiring, about the continued running of the cafe.
On Saturday, Pellgrini’s will be serving free long blacks – Malaspina’s coffee of choice.
The memorial will be installed outside the cafe in early 2020.