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Florida Restaurant Holds Benefit for Astronaut Lisa Nowak

Astronaut Biography: Lisa Nowak
Astronaut Lisa M. Nowak, mission specialist. Image (Image credit: NASA)

COCOA BEACH - The dinnerguests at Silvestro's were quiet and relaxed, ready to sit down forsophisticated Italian fare on white-clothed tables.

These diners came for areason -- to support LisaNowak, the woman accused in apotentially deadly lover's triangle.

"I think everyonedeserves a second chance," said Kay Getsinger of Cocoa.

The owners of therestaurant decided to donate proceeds from Sunday night's dinner to the Nowakfamily. That use has yet to be decided, said Tony Bless, co-owner of therestaurant.

Nowak, a NASA astronaut, was arrestedlast week on attempted murder charges after allegedly attacking a perceivedromantic rival in an Orlando International Airport parking lot.

Even as FLORIDA TODAYmessage boards lit up with protesters and naysayers, questioning the restaurantfor supporting a "criminal," the restaurant expected to fillreservations for 70 by the end of the night, Bless said. The restaurant seats75.

"We're pretty much atcapacity," Bless said, adding that he usually seats about 30 guests on atypical Sunday night.

Bless said he didn't expectthe response generated by his small advertisement in the newspaper. He's gottensupportive out-of-state calls and e-mails, some from as far away as Italy. He'salso gotten interest from national media, including "Inside Edition,"and "Fox & Friends."

He said he just thought itwas the right thing to do for a woman who made a positive impression on hisstaff when she dined there last summer.

"We stand by ourfriends in time of need, and it's a time of need," he said.

At about 5 p.m., dinersstarted filing into the intimate restaurant tucked in the Banana River Plaza,each expecting to spend up to $75 on dinner. To the left of the double mahoganydoors hung a small, smiling portrait of Nowak in her astronaut gear.

Some diners didn't evenknow the restaurant existed before hearing about the event.

"It seemed like thecompassionate thing to do," said Janet Ritzi of Readfield, Maine, who'sstaying in Melbourne Beach on vacation. "Just as a human being, may we allbe so considerate."

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