Business Spotlight: A story of love, belonging, and wine at Morso Bistro

Posted on October 31st, 2022 By: Julie Warrick Ammann

“Everyone has a story,” says Trish Huff, speaking from her bistro, Morso, perched above North Harborview Drive on Peacock Hill in Gig Harbor.

Expansive windows with harbor views outline the contemporary yet casual space. Foodies and wine lovers enjoy nibbles and savory dishes from a seasonal menu as they swirl, sniff and taste wines from around the world.

“I love the experience of wine, and the history and story of it,” says Huff.  “There is a life that’s already happened before it gets to the table. I love this.”

From left, Steve Donovan, Jerry Pugnetti, Wendy Pugnetti, Tina Donovan, Annie Kilroy and Donny Kilroy toast at Morso recently. Julie Warrick Ammann

As a child, it was at her grandmother’s table for 2 p.m. Sunday dinners in Wollochet Heights where Huff first learned the love of cooking and the communal spirit of sharing a meal.

“Food, family, that’s what we did,” says Huff whose mom was a gourmet cook and home economics teacher at the time. “Food was tradition. So much happened over the table.”

Family inspired career path

Time at the family table would inspire Huff to pursue a career in the culinary arts. After earning her degree in hotel restaurant management from the University of Washington, Huff went on to earn her culinary arts degree from the well-regarded South Seattle College culinary program.

Soon after, Huff’s restaurant career was launched. She eventually found herself across the country managing private wine collections and working in the wine business, where she would remain for more than a decade. Huff would become a Level 3 Sommelier and manage a Top 10 US wine bar in Washington, D.C.

Huff would trade coasts again and boomerang back to the Pacifc Northwest following her new role: caregiver. After the subsequent loss and bereavement of a friend and family member, Huff first said no to the idea of buying Morso in 2019, then a wine bar.

But no turned to yes. Huff has transformed a more formal wine bar into a busy casual bistro. It combines cuisine featuring local produce and meats with an impressive list of storied regional and international wines available at the Morso wine shop located within the restaurant.

The bar area at Morso in Gig Harbor. Julie Warrick Ammann

‘Safe, comfortable and happy’

To provide a superior gastronomic effect, wine can be paired with small bites of warm tarragon and basil goat cheese crostini or local PNW mushroom flatbread.

Take refuge from the wind and rain and indulge in a coastal classic comfort food: seafood chowder with smoked salmon and clams. For the bigger appetite, a Beef Coulotte with fig Demi and roasted new potatoes. If you’re feeling Italian, one of Italy’s most famous first courses, Cacio E Pepe, a pasta with pecorino cheese, parmigiano reggiano, tossed in extra virgin oil.Fa venire lacquolina in bocca,” as they say in Italy . Translation: “It makes my mouth water.”

With hundreds of bottles of wines available ranging from $12 to $500, and reservations not taken, Huff stresses her welcoming philosophy. “I don’t want it to be fancy. I don’t want it to be stuffy.”

Basil goat cheese crostini at Morso. Julie Warrick Ammann

Huff believes customers remember the feeling of the dining experience. “They don’t remember if it was tomatoes or peppers in their meal.”  Huff describes her casual bistro as she might speak about a family meal. I want people to feel, “safe, comfortable, and happy.”

Not just wine (but lots of wine)

Keeping all guests happy, the Morso menu also offers a variety of beers, ciders and seltzers, Sangria and Spritz’s. During the warm weather months, guests enjoy the soft serenade of live music from the patio. When not gazing out the windows to the sailboats, vessels, and kayaks that dot the harbor, local art exhibits catch the eye and warm the modern space within the restaurant.

In a back corner of the bistro, a cozy gift store sells handcrafted gifts and home accessories including aromatic candles and rich chocolates. If you need a break from the kids, Morso is a grownup sanctuary as it’s a 21+ bistro.

Explorer Wine Club example wine: Grand cru Beaujolais is a small production red wine from the Moulin A-Vent area, a region that lies between the Rhone and Saone et Loire department, in Eastern France. This region is known for wines made from Gamay grapes, the “King of Beaujolais wines”. After tasting the wines himself, King Louis XIV declared they were fit for a King. Translated, moulin à vent means windmill. On a hillside near the vineyards, an ancient windmill resides over the manganese-rich granatic subsoil. Rochegrès Moulin-à-Vent pairs with red meats, poultry and mild cheeses. Julie Warrick Ammann

With a love of wines and and desire to share stories about, “Where it travelled, and who loved it along the way,” while providing customers a sense of belonging, Morso is launching two new wine clubs.  The Explorer Wine Club features international wines from all over the world. The Domestic club will concentrate on local US wines.

Domestic Wine Club example wine: Petitte Sirah is a small production California wine by Orin Swiift, a vineyard located in St. Helena in the heart of Napa Valley. Founded in 1998 by David Swift Phinney, the name Orin derives from his father’s middle name, and Swift, is his mother’s maiden name. The Pettite Sirah is bold and plummy with rich and seductive full body flavor and opulent fruit and a plush texture. Bold artistic labels complete a wine recognized as an expression in the art of wine making. Food pairings included rich meats, and roasted, braised or stewed delicacies. Julie Warrick Ammann

As the holidays approach, the clubs will expand to include wines for holiday dinners and celebrations. Heading up the clubs is recent Brooklyn, N.Y., transplant Vanessa Ausmus, a sommelier with a depth of experience in the wine world.

Vanessa Ausmus is the wine club manager at Morso and a sommelier with a depth of experience in the wine world. Julie Warrick Ammann

Human connection

In between interrupted sips of green tea, meeting early morning delivery men and greeting staff, Huff marvels at the transformation Morso has undergone during one of the most tumultuous periods in history.

But it is not the past challenges she dwells upon. Instead, it is the story of her dedicated staff and customers she celebrates.

“Ultimately, it’s the human connection,” she says.  “I want them to leave knowing that they were acknowledged and appreciated, and that it was fun.”

More on Morso


Address: 9014 Peacock Hill Ave, Gig Harbor, WA 98332

Email: [email protected]

Phone: 253-530-3463

Text: 253-225-7807

Hours: Noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, closed Sundays

Reservations: only for parties of 7 or more, and on holidays. Text 30 minutes prior to arrival during peak dining hours, and your name will be added to a waitlist

Full Service Catering: offered with customized menus created by Morso professional team

Wine Shop & Market: Hundreds of hand-selected bottles to take home or enjoy while dining. Gifts, home accessories, and wine baskets available, along with hand-selected craft beer, cider, and imported gourmet foods

Wine Club: Sign up here

    • Annual membership starts at $100.
    • Includes: access to wine education and classes, and discount on wine purchases and more.
    • Please bring your wine club card to pick up your wines.

Wendy Pugnetti enjoys a glass of wine at Morso recently. Julie Warrick Ammann