Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi is expected at tomorrow night's 45-minute preview showing of highlights from "Christopher Columbus," a new television mini-series, at the Kennedy Center, which will be followed by a buffet reception. The six-hour mini-series will be broadcast on CBS in May. Among the other guests expected are Italian Ambassador Rinaldo Petrignani; Renato Pachetti, president of the RAI Italian television corporation in America; Tom Leahy, executive vice president of CBS Broadcast Group; Tony Malara, president of the CBS Network; and B. Donald Grant, president of CBS Entertainment . . .

Now that Miss New Hampshire-U.S.A. has surrendered the crown she wore for a week after being arrested on a misdemeanor count of receiving stolen property, Plymouth, N.H., police have cleared the Plymouth State College student, Rhonda Niles, of the charges brought against her . . .

St. Patrick's Day is closing in and the annual Irish Coffee contest will be at Rumors on March 13 with judges Gary Murphy of Q107, Gearoid McNamara of the Irish Embassy, Carol Parker of Q107, John Murphy of WBMW, Marcia Brazda of "PM Magazine," Peter Quinn Hackes of "Entertainment Tonight" and Paul Finnegan, last year's winner from the Sign of the Whale, sampling cup after cup after cup of the strange brew in their misty quest for a winner . . .

Peter Laricos, who for 10 years ran the Intrigue restaurant at the Intrigue Hotel in Foggy Bottom, where Kennedy Center stars were often seen having a late-night supper, has relocated to the Black Horse Tavern on 20th Street NW, which will also be open for the after-theater crowd . . .

That man you saw in black tie Friday at that Arlington gas station pumping his own fuel into his car was Sen. James A. McClure, who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. There's clearly more than one way to conserve energy . . .