SPRING HILL — Giovanni Dargenio was sipping his daily espresso and munching on a French cruller in front of his favorite Dunkin' Donuts on Tuesday morning when the Hyundai came at him.
The 72-year-old retired chef had no time to jump off the park bench before the sedan rolled over a parking block and onto the sidewalk. The front bumper pushed Dargenio and the bench into the front glass wall of the 24-hour shop at Spring Hill Drive and Mariner Boulevard.
Dargenio's friend, Andy Ingoglia of Spring Hill, was able to jump off the bench and get out of the way before the impact. Customers sitting in front of the window inside hopped off their stools as glass shards flew into the restaurant.
The two men were waiting for the Hyundai's driver, 75-year-old John Lesniak of Spring Hill, to move his car and join them. All three are regulars at the Dunkin' Donuts, a popular gathering spot in Spring Hill. Ingoglia and Dargenio watched as Lesniak pulled into the handicapped parking space in front of them — then kept going.
"He just kind of rolled over it," said Ingoglia, the father of Blaise Ingoglia, chairman of the Hernando Republican Executive Committee and vice chairman of the Florida Republican Party.
Dargenio suffered a knot on his leg and a cut on his shoulder where it hit the window.
"I'm lucky I still got time to talk to you," he told a reporter about a half-hour after the crash as he sat on the bench in espresso-stained shorts and a Dunkin' Donuts employee swept up glass and spilled coffee from the sidewalk. A few minutes later, another worker brought Dargenio a fresh espresso and pastry.
Dargenio's friends urged him to go the hospital to get checked out. He said he might. "I'm going to see what happens tonight," he said. "Right now I feel no pain, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to."
Lesniak, who walks with a cane, said his foot slipped and got caught between the accelerator and brake pedal. He heard Dargenio screaming and was able to immediately back up to free his friend.
"I was hurt because he's a friend of mine," Lesniak said.
Dunkin' Donuts worker Judy Shannon said she heard a loud crash and turned to see the car and bench up against the shattered front window. She called 911.
"It scared me so bad, I was shaking," Shannon said. "I was just expecting the worst."
Shannon said it was at least the third time a car has hit the restaurant in the 19 years she has worked at the location. Co-owner Tom Masson estimated the impact caused about $500 worth of damage.
The incident apparently didn't damage Dargenio's friendship with Lesniak.
"He said, 'I'm sorry,' " Dargenio said. "What else can you say?"
Lesniak said he plans to return to Dunkin' Donuts — eventually.
"I'm going to stay home for a while," he said, "until I can settle down a bit."
Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or email@example.com.