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A dedication to Pellegrini’s Sisto Malaspina

Mourning the loss of the Italian pioneer.

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This week I’m dedicating my column to Sisto Malaspina, after the heart-wrenching news of his death last Friday. Malaspina was part-owner of Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar on Bourke Street, and was possibly one of the most adorable and adored restaurateurs in Melbourne. Once the news had hit me, tears couldn’t help but pour completely down my cheeks. My mind immediately honed back to my memories of Malaspina. He was a kind, caring soul, and most times could be spotted hands rested on his chest behind the bar, simply waiting for his guests to order. He was patient, never loud, and I can truly say that Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar is the only restaurant in Melbourne where I really feel like I’m in my own Nonna’s kitchen. That’s the kind of warmth Malaspina crafted. So let’s celebrate Malaspina and Pelligrini’s in this column. 
 
At first welcome, you feel more like you’ve stepped into Italy than simply a restaurant, and that in itself has made the sweet pocket of the city what it is today. A bar wraps almost all of the restaurant, where guests are welcome to dine facing the loving staff, impressive coffee machine, and delicious cabinets filled with Italian treats. They can also dine against the mirrors right opposite, or, in the kitchen with the chefs – AKA family – as they bake lasagna and cannelloni. I will miss dear Sisto sitting at the end of the table some nights, drinking coffee, and smiling.
 
My favourite times at Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar were the unexpected visits, which were most common. If it was drinking wine at Siglo near-by, post gig at the Palace Theatre, or simply walking through the city, the thought, “Oh, how about Pelligirini’s!” was common for the way it offered a comforting end to any evening. My favourite dish was the lasagna – generous mounds of bolognese sugo, Parmigiano cheese and layered pasta would completely fill a bowl until it couldn’t hold any more. Portions at Pellegrini's are on the fuller side, as they always should be, while all dishes are accompanied with slices of bread and butter, optimal for soaking up the sugo that’s left over. Other standout dishes are the spaghetti marinara and, their most widely-celebrated dish, spaghetti and meatballs.
 
Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar represents so much more than an Italian restaurant. They pride themselves on their family tradition and the wonderful Italian culture that migrated here in 1950. Sisto Malaspina was a huge part our city, and he will be forever remembered,  admired and missed. 

A state funeral will be held for Sisto Malaspina this week.