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De Niro: No Italian dressing

Thesp nixes nod, irks Italos

ROME — Robert De Niro ruffled some feathers in Italy over the weekend after he traveled to Milan to promote local links with the Tribeca Film Festival.

The flap, according to insiders, had to do with the U.S. presidential election.

In Milan, De Niro declined to receive a top local award known as the Golden Ambrosius from the fashion capital’s mayor, Gabriele Albertini, whom he kept waiting for 40 minutes before the start of Thursday’s Tribeca in Milan gala for “Stage Beauty.”

Irked by the delay, the mayor stormed out of Milan’s Manzoni Theater in a huff.

Albertini — a member of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s pro-Bush bloc — called De Niro’s behavior “an incredible display of bad manners.”

“I’m a supporter of John Kerry because we need new leadership, someone to represent the United States in the rest of the world who can begin to do things differently,” De Niro had told Italian reporters in Milan earlier in the day.

Sources said De Niro felt uncomfortable about accepting that award, and — more importantly — about accepting an honorary Italian citizenship due to be bestowed on him the following day in Rome, because of potential controversy the honor could ignite Stateside with the Washington, D.C.-based Order of the Sons of Italy on the eve of the vote.

The Italian-American advocacy group claims the thesp’s mobster roles — including his voice role in “Shark Tale” — give Italy a bad name and has recently clamored against the granting of honorary Italian citizenship upon De Niro.

On Friday De Niro canceled a scheduled Tribeca in Rome press conference and flew in his private jet to Paris instead.

A spokesman for Italy’s Culture Ministry said De Niro’s Italian citizenship has been put on hold until after the November U.S. election. “He is still very keen to go ahead with it,” the ministry rep said.

“It was a complicated situation, and I’m not sure how it was handled at their end, but it certainly wasn’t handled properly at mine,” De Niro said in a statement on Saturday.

“I was a guest in their country, and the last thing I would want to do is to offend anyone. I love Italy.”

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