Navigating the Britannia roundabouts requires concentration; you’d be forgiven for not noticing there’s activity going on in a cordoned-off building on the corner of Fullarton Road and Wakefield Street.

Once the entrance to Victoria Park racecourse, the heritage-listed Bookmakers’ League building has lain dormant for 15 years. Next month it becomes The Stables of Victoria Park – a relaxed daytime diner specialising in Southern Italian flavours.

The building was put out to tender two-and-a-half years ago – along with two neighbouring sites – to reactivate the area. Since then the corner’s gained Velo Cafe (in the grandstand), Kiosk on 16 and, soon, The Stables.

Owner Massimo Piscioneri tells us about his commercial-construction company. A foray into food seems surprising, until we learn he kitted-out a number of Adelaide cafes including Penny University and Argo on the Parade. Plus, he’s Italian.

“The [building’s] heritage makes it,” says Piscioneri. But it’s a blessing and a curse. “It hasn’t been your average fit-out,” he says, laughing. “We had to build off the existing walls ... nothing could be fixed to them.” Being a builder-cross-venue operator has its perks.

Entering from Victoria Park, the 200-square-metre open-plan space stuns. The racecourse’s original red turnstiles sit just outside, waiting to be repurposed. Grand timber beams (once masked by drop ceilings) loom overhead. Communal bench seating will service 80 inside and just as many outside. It’ll double as an indoor–outdoor function space.

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“The best places I’ve eaten are the most simple,” says Piscioneri. That was the brief for his long-time friend Davide Carapella (ex-Assaggio), who heads up the kitchen. Wholesome, Italian-style breakfasts will change regularly but could include anything from pork sausages to baked eggs, offset by healthy, fruit-heavy “bowls”.

Piscioneri wants to reconcile the often-opposing Neapolitan- and Roman-style pizzas. His woodfired hybrid will “still be a nice, doughy pizza, but with a more solid, crispy base.” Choose from a rotating five or six at lunchtime, or opt for pasta. Porchetta spit-roasted over charcoal will be a signature (and a mainstay). Picture that stuffed in a panino.

Blends by 1645 Coffee Roasters will pour alongside freshly squeezed juices and a select few local and Italian beers and wines. House-baked sweets will line the bar (Piscioneri had us at piped-to-order cannoli, “just like in Italy”). There’ll be a mini florist, as well.

A slew of events – including an outdoor cinema, bocce and fitness sessions – are on the cards.

The Stables of Victoria Park opens in early February. It’ll operate Tuesday to Sunday 7am to 3pm, and for functions and events.