•  St. Louis foodies got early holiday presents last week when three restaurants and one food mecca made their debuts.

•  Restaurateur DOMINIC GALATI welcomed diners to his newest spot, located in the Gateway One Building downtown. Gio’s Ristorante and Bar is a lovely space with a formal dining room that seats 100, a view of the Arch and a bar with glass-tiled backdrop and patio. Executive chef JOHN RUGGERI is assisted by his chef de cuisine, STEVE SCHERRER, formerly of Arthur Clay’s. Steve was recommended by his father, who happens to be John’s neighbor. Highlights of the all-new, all-Italian menu include risotto with sweet squash and sherry, short ribs with gorgonzola and polenta, and halibut with porcini ragu. Gio’s serves lunch and dinner weekdays, dinner only on Saturday. Buon Appetito!

•  The Good Pie pizzeria at 3137 Olive St. in Midtown had a leisurely soft opening. Owners MIKE RANDOLPH and LIZ DOLE RANDOLPH brought an authentic pizzaiolo from Italy to train Mike and two others how to make the rustic, thin crust that is the hallmark of Neapolitan pizzas. For three days he showed them how to prepare, stretch and bake the dough. It’s amazing how fast the insanely hot, wood-burning oven transforms the fresh dough and toppings into crisp bliss. Mike, a New England Culinary Institute-trained chef, has been a sous at Liluma, Acero and The Crossing. He fell in love with Neopolitan pizza and had to bring it to St. Louis. The comfy, 50-seat restaurant has exposed brick and a rustic tin ceiling and is open every day but Sunday.

•  After a weekend of private preview parties, El Borracho Taqueria y Cantina opened at the corner of 20th and Locust streets. The hanging metal lanterns and niche altars for Day of the Dead statuary create a Tarantino-meets-Tijuana vibe. Executive chef/partner JOHN GRIFFITHS has put together a menu that’s part gringo, part Pancho. There are nachos for the Gringos, and tacos with lettuce, tomato and sour cream. Just cilantro, onion and a wedge of lime adorn the Pancho-style tacos. John recommends posole, a rich stew of chiles, chicken, pork and hominy ($4.50), to those craving true Mexican food. Prices are insanely low: $2.25 to $7.50.  You can even get the house margaritas by the pitcher; they’re on tap, literally, next to the Dead Man Ale and seven other beers on draught. El Borracho opens at 4 p.m. for a long happy hour and stays open until 1:30 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

•  Surely by now, you’ve heard that The Market at Busch’s Grove has opened its grand doors. Owner Paul Poe’s vision for the restaurant space has been achieved: It’s a special food shopping experience that is very Ladue. Instead of hanging aisle numbers, grocery shelves are named for Ladue thoroughfares: Price,  Warson, Conway, etc. The wood-paneled Grove Room features a magnificent meat department led by RICHARD MUNYER, as well as wine and spirits racks. Nearby, pastry duchess BARBARA LeMONS reigns over the sweets and baskets of fresh breads, made both in house and by local bakeries. Executive chef CLINT WHITTEMORE runs the kitchen, preparing everything from New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp to extra large, gloriously glazed holiday hams. The Lalique-handled doors are unlocked each morning at 10 a.m., and last minute shoppers have until 8 p.m. to fill their baskets, 6 p.m. on Sundays.

Got something for Spicy Bits?  Write to Amy Peck Abraham at spicybits@laduenews.com.

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