I didn't know Sisto Malaspina well. He was killed in Bourke Street last Friday by a mad man.
When I first arrived in Melbourne back in 1988, one of the first places I went was Pellegrini's Cafe in Bourke Street and it was Sisto who served me. I remember because he said as I was a new customer, he'd throw in a cake for free. That was appreciated because I was broke and probably looked like it.
I used to go to Pellegrini's about once a month when I lived in Melbourne (1988-2008). I'd devour their spaghetti bolognaise on a cold winter's night. It was places such as Pellegrini's and Sisto, the Supper Inn, Florentinos, Readings Bookshop and many other bars and clubs, that turned me from a provincial Adelaide boy, to a seasoned Melbournite.
I travel a fair bit between Canberra, Adelaide and the NSW south coast now but whenever I can, I detour to my old haunts in Melbourne. Last year I called in to Pellegrini's to have a granita and there was Sisto, propping up the bar with a coffee, wearing a neckerchief and looking good for a man in his 70s.
He said, "I haven't seen you for a while." We talked for ten minutes about how Melbourne had changed since the 1980s and then I paid him, smiled and said 'salve' as I walked out the door. I didn't know Sisto well but my life is better for knowing him at all.