by LIZ ONUFER | photos by Soul of Photography

Blending Heritage and Lifestyle

After an international move and a life-changing diagnosis, Daniela Balzano has found her home in Solana Beach and her calling in the kitchen.

Daniela graduated from college in Rome, Italy and originally worked as a child psychiatrist, specializing in working with premature babies and their families. “I helped the parents walk through this emotional and stressful experience, helping them to ‘meet’ their child,” she explained. After seven years, she moved to Paris, France and a “new chapter” began.

In Paris, Daniela was inspired by the art museums and patisseries (pastry shops). “I fell in love with the art of the French pastry and decided to consecrate part of my life to becoming a pastry chef,” she shared. “I grew up in southern Italy, where food and cooking are an integral part of life.”

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Four years ago, Daniela moved to Solana Beach and saw the opportunity to marry her Italian cooking heritage with the art of the French pastry by founding an intimate cooking school, Atmosfera Cucina. She hosts cooking classes “in a quiet and elegant kitchen, balancing between the Italian taste and the French flair,” Daniela explained.


Name: Daniela Balzano Vergassola
Profession: Founder of Atmosfera Cucina Cooking School
Community: Solana Beach
Hobbies:  Classical music, piano, art museums, collecting antiques, my daughters
Favorite Spots in Del Sol: Farmers market, Del Mar Library, Cedros Garden, Torrey Pines State Reserve


Soon after, though, she was diagnosed with celiac disease and restricted to a diet without wheat. “I lost an essential part of my heritage, an antique language I spoke perfectly well made of traditions and flavors,” she acknowledged. “Discovering the disease, I felt mute.”

Daniela made the commitment to learn everything she could about celiac disease and the gluten-free lifestyle. With her strong culinary foundation, she educated herself, her husband, and their three daughters, but she thought about those without her expertise. “How would they even switch to a restricted diet the way I did in a healthy way?” she wondered. “Naturally, Atmosfera Cucina became a gluten-free cooking school, even if some of the classes can be a mix between gluten and gluten-free menu, as I do every day for my family!”

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Today, Daniela enjoys the tastes, conversations, and connections she makes in the kitchen and with her family. Between creating new menus, teaching cooking classes, playing the piano, and spending time with her daughters, Daniela has found the balance of all her worlds. “Italian people say ‘at the table, you never get older.’ I would say at a table, you can never be happier with good food, family, and friends.”