I ran the very first The Pancake Parlour in Melbourne and established it as a household brand. It opened in 1969 in Market Lane. While we were building, and for years after we opened, I would regularly eat at a little Italian restaurant at the top of Bourke Street. It was good, simple Italian food of a consistent quality. To my knowledge, though it seems unbelievable now, it was the only café in Melbourne. The original owner was a legend. A big and gregarious man.
Then, around 1972 it must have been, one day he was gone. A young fresh-faced boy had bought him out. He was about the same age as me. I didn’t think that he had a hope of making a success of it. Taking over from a legend is difficult – and I had first-hand knowledge of how hard a food business was.
I watched him closely, and he was smart. He changed nothing. Just kept doing exactly what the legend had done – serving great food and great coffee. He was nervous when he began, but slowly and perceptibly grew in confidence and stature. It must have taken about five years, but he filled the legend’s shoes and became the face of Pellegrini’s.
As an old Melburnian, I still see the face of that young, fresh-faced kid (just like I was back then). We always acknowledged each other’s presence, but were never more than nodding acquaintances.
Until yesterday, he was still in the food business, just as I am. It’s a passion.
Yesterday, he paid the price for Australia’s naïve and un-Australian immigration policy.
While going about his business in the heart of the city of Melbourne, Sisto Malaspina, the owner of Pellegrini’s, was stabbed in the face and bled to death.
He was 74. What sort of an animal stabs a 74 year old man in the face?
Vale Sisto. I know what you achieved. You were a legend.