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Heartbreaking Scenes As Melburnians Farewell Sisto Malaspina

It was fitting Australia's largest church was chosen to farewell the larger-than-life Sisto Malaspina.

Hundreds of guests descended on Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral to pay respects to the 74-year-old restaurateur, including federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Premier Daniel Andrews and Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy.

Former Victorian Premier Steve Bracks, Melbourne Mayor Sally Capp, Senator Derryn Hinch, music mogul Michael Gudinski and chef George Calombaris also attended the state funeral, while screens set up outside and at Federation Square accommodated for hundreds more mourners.

Mr Malaspina was the co-owner of Pellegrini's Espresso Bar on Bourke Street, one of the first establishments to bring European cafe culture to the city.

While the coffee and pasta on offer were delicious, his hospitality and warm personality captured the hearts of Melburnians.

Victoria's Governor Linda Dessau was among the patrons, saying migrant families like hers flocked to the restaurant.

"A visit to Pellegrini's was simply a return to my childhood," she said.

Mr Malaspina was killed and two other men were injured on November 9 when 30-year-old Hassan Khalif Shire Ali drove a burning ute into Bourke Street and launched a knife attack.

Police shot Shire Ali who later died in hospital.

Since the tragedy, hundreds of cards and floral tributes have been left outside Pellegrini's, while devastated customers queued to sign a book of condolence.

The governor said there were many words to describe Mr Malaspina.

"Sisto has been described this week as kind, open-hearted, generous, charismatic, enthusiastic, optimistic, humble, hospitable, a beautiful man, a gentleman and the sort of man you wanted to hug," she said.

"He gave so much happiness to so many people."

Many mourners wore bright colours, cravats and neckties to honour Mr Malaspina.

"Dad never liked wearing black. Dad always thought the way you dressed should reflect your personality," son David said.

"Dad had a very colourful personality."

David had to pause as he explained the values his father instilled in him.

"He said ... treat everybody equally, despite race, religion and social values."

He said his father didn't consider patrons customers - "he considered you friends."

Business tycoon and friend, Lindsay Fox followed with a eulogy, explaining the 60-year friendship he shared with Sisto and fellow Pellegrini co-owner Nino Pangrazio.

"Even back then, he had the ability to make everyone feel like part of the family," he said, recalling the times Sisto would entertain his daughters on his mandolin.

Media mogul Harold Mitchell drew rapturous applause when he took off his black coat and tie and put on a yellow jacket and cravat.

"Most of us at some stage secretly wished we were Italian," he said.

With AAP

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