It’s become a Melbourne institution and remains unchanged today, a lasting reminder of how important European and other cultural dining influences have been in Melbourne’s culinary evolution.
Pellegrinis has been serving its customers great coffee and authentic Italian food for generations. The original Café Bar opened in 1954 by the Pellegrini brothers, Leo and Vildo with one of Melbourne’s first Gaggia Espresso Machines leading the first wave of Italian cafes in the city. Initially it was designed to appeal to Melbourne’s immigrant community, providing authentic Italian food and espresso coffee, but soon became popular with theatre people, intellectuals and tourists.
The business was sold to Sisto Malaspina and Nino Pangrazio in 1972. Two Italian immigrants who were working in the same catering business at the time. The famous red neon sign once pointed to an extended café at the back which has since been closed.
Pellegrinis helped the spread of coffee culture in Melbourne over the decades to follow, until the new wave of specialist roasters and baristas emerged in the early 2000s.
Today, the passion for the bean is at an all-time high thanks to a third wave of coffee suppliers and café owners focused on the origin of the coffee bean and specialty roasting and brewing methods. Cold drips, aero-press and cupping are common words in the local vernacular thanks to a widespread passion for the bean, complemented by a number of leading provedores who call Melbourne home.
Sisto’s warm welcome, big smile, traditional food including lasagne and home-made pasta became a favourite with locals and many famous visitors from the past and present including Ava Gardner, Gregory Peck, Fred Astaire and Anthony Perkins. Since Sisto’s tragic death in November 2018 and subsequent State Funeral on 20 November 2018, many other high profile politicians, Hollywood friends and supporters have voiced their love and sympathies. Visit Victoria is also sad to lose such an important part of Melbourne's history, a genuine icon of the hospitality industry.
Pellegrinis Espresso Bar
66 Bourke Street
Phone + 61 3 96621885
Coffee fast facts
Melbourne’s love of coffee just keeps growing – the volume of coffee beans imported from around the globe through the Port of Melbourne has increased by around 780 per cent over the last decade! Every day, on average, the Port of Melbourne handles 30 tonnes of coffee beans. This makes the equivalent of 3 million cups of coffee each day – that’s enough to give every metropolitan Melburnian a daily coffee fix.
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