Sisto’s family: ‘He was just a beautiful man’
The family of beloved Melbourne restaurateur Sisto Malaspina has spoken publicly for the first time since he was killed in a terror attack on Friday.
Mr Malaspina, 74, was bludgeoned to death by terrorist Hassan Khalif Shire Ali who went on a stabbing frenzy in the city after setting a car on fire with gas bottles inside.
Mr Malaspina was walking down Bourke Street, just a few hundred metres from Pellegrini's restaurant which he co-owned for over 40 years, when he was fatally attacked by Ali. Mr Malaspina was believed to have stopped to assist Ali when he was murdered.
Another two men, a 26-year-old security guard and a 59-year-old Tasmanian retiree, were also stabbed by the knifeman and are recovering in hospital. Ali was shot dead at point-blank-range by police on the scene.
In a statement released this afternoon, Mr Malaspina's children described him as "a larger than life character" whose "natural generosity made every individual he met feel welcome and important". They said every one of their father's customers was "given the same respect and service regardless of their standing in society".
"To him everyone was special," the statement read.
"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.
"In honour of Dad's memory the wonderful staff at Pellegrini's are determined to continue his legacy with the same passion.
"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."
The family also thanked emergency services personnel for their "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," the statement read.
Over the weekend, hundreds of flowers and cards line the footpath outside Pellegrini's restaurant, where Mr Malaspina had become a familiar and friendly face to many, over four decades of working there.
"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," the family's statement read.
"We are deeply moved by all the flowers, gifts and condolences.
"To the people of Melbourne, your heartfelt tributes have shown us why our Dad loved this great city so much."
A statement from Victoria Police said the family had decided to donate the "enormous amount of beautiful flowers" received to nursing homes and hospitals to "brighten-up other's lives".
STATE FUNERAL FOR 'A VICTORIAN ICON'
Mr Malaspina will be farewelled at a state funeral in Melbourne next week
The Malaspina family agreed to the state funeral on Monday, less than a day after Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews made the offer.
"Sisto Malaspina was a Victorian icon, known and loved by us all," Mr Andrews tweeted.
"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."
Ideas are being considered for a lasting tribute to Mr Malaspina including renaming the laneway next to Pellegrini's Espresso Bar, which he co-owned.
"I know there's been a bit of talk about renaming the lane, renaming Crossley Lane, I think that's a fantastic idea and I would fully support that," Mr Andrews told reporters.
PELLEGRINI'S TO REOPEN
Melburnians have openly wept outside the premises, where Mr Malaspina's shattered business partner Nino Pangrazio was comforted over the weekend.
Pellegrini's, which Mr Malaspina and Mr Pangrazio have run since 1974, has been closed since the attack and will reopen on Tuesday morning at 8am.
In a statement released this afternoon, Pellegrini's staff announced they will be "serving long blacks for free" in memory of Mr Malaspina - "it was Sisto's favourite" - tomorrow.
"Pellegrini's has been overwhelmed and humbled by the outpouring of sympathy and kindness," the statement read.
"Through Pellegrini's, our late friend, boss and partner Sisto Malaspina, will always be part of Melbourne as Melbourne will always be part of us.
"Our lasting tribute to Sisto will be to continue to serve the people of Melbourne and others from around the country and other parts of the world with whom we have shared much happiness over the decades and now share our grief."
Staff said they were looking forward to opening the restaurant doors tomorrow "and providing Melburnians with the opportunity to remember our friend and colleague in a place that he loved and they love".
Soon after Mr Malaspina's death, staff placed a note in the restaurant window, describing him as the "best boss".
"Thank you for making us staff members as part of your life," it said.
"You always looked after us like family.
"You always said to have fun at work because we all worked so hard.
"Pellegrini was your life, we will never forget all that you have done and given us.
"We will love you forever and ever in our hearts.
"Rest in peace."