In the old Scarlet Begonias of only 25 seats, you brought your own bottle, sat on a couple of out-of-the-way bar stools and waited for a table to open up. You ordered at the counter in full view of a miniscule kitchen, and a server brought over the food and water. This snug little spot had character.

Since 1995, Scarlet Begonias has served salads, sandwiches and inventive pizzas long before others joined the pie party. Eight out of nine years, the eatery took home first place at the region’s big fundraising pizza challenge. The crab cakes were among the best around. Pasta dishes were hearty, garlicky and dependably good.

The family-owned restaurant moved to a spot in the new Maine Street Station in Brunswick almost two years ago. The space is sunnier, bigger with 85 seats, and noisier. It now has a liquor license, a separate bar area, wait service and a restroom on ground level.

Some say the establishment lost a little of its soul with the move. But the menu is mostly the same and doesn’t change except for the addition of daily specials. Crab cakes made with homemade cornbread and served with chipotle mayonnaise still entice.

The owners, Doug and Colleen LaVallee, attempt to make up for the lost coziness with a kitschy decor that changes with the season. In the summer, you’ll find a collection of beach balls set on top of a room divider, for instance. Cords of colored lights are strung here and there, and assorted works of original art hang on the walls. It’s fun and quirky.

No doubt the cooks prefer prepping in a kitchen that’s bigger than a ship’s galley. Slide into a booth out front or choose a table in the separate bar area for a quieter meal. The menu tilts toward Italian-American, and many dishes are named for members of the LaVallee family. The owners’ three children — Sallie, Hugh and Steve — also work here. (And yes, the restaurant was named for the Grateful Dead song.)

Homemade Southwestern bean soup ($3.50 per cup) is chunky with carrots, onions, black beans and corn. A spicy but not fiery potage, it’s hearty and good. Spinach and mushroom salad with bacon, tomato, feta cheese and onion comes straight from the refrigerator, which doesn’t do the tomatoes any favors ($7.25). A request for added grilled chicken (an extra $3) nets several nice slices of warm meat cooked just right and fanned on top.

A special of ample Maine shrimp in a bright and copiously dressed basil/walnut pesto sauce over penne is a delicious summer entree ($17.95). The regular menu’s pasta primavera ($12.95) comes overflowing with al dente broccoli, spinach, roasted red peppers, mushrooms and onions in a robust homemade marinara sauce on top of linguine.

A dish called Stephen’s Dilemma ($13.95) mingles penne pasta with large pieces of sausage and chicken (maybe the dilemma was which meat to have) in that same tomato-chunky marinara with roasted garlic, mushrooms and spinach. The kitchen uses dried pasta, but toppings are fresh, generous and varied. Garlic bread that’s a little too soft inside comes with each substantial entree.

Cedric’s Pie (Cedric is a friend, not a family member) showcases the kitchen’s skill with personal pizza. Curls of roasted onions, mushy cloves of roasted garlic, crispy sweet corn kernels and chewy cubes of bacon dusted with Parmesan and herbs (and no marinara) combine for an excellent texture and flavor combo — $12.50 for a 10-inch pie. Its thin and crispy crust with a few air pockets is an admirable vehicle.

We learn that the young man who serves us usually cooks, but has stepped out to work the front this evening. He is a natural at hospitality, and is skilled in the art of communication and accommodation.

Any crab cakes tonight, we ask? No, but he’ll doublecheck just to make sure. May we have additional plates and silverware since we’re going to share? Of course. Would we like the pizza to come with our entrees or ahead of time, he inquires? No matter, we say, adding that we appreciate his question.

After he leaves, one of my companions, who used to manage a dining room, nods with approval. She likes that a cook gets to see the work the other half does.

It’s hard to believe, but after all that food, we order dessert. An inch-thick, homemade walnut chocolate-chip cookie the size of a saucer finishes us off. Split that puppy four ways. It’s $1.50.

While the atmosphere at Scarlet Begonias is less intimate than the old days and the wine list a little basic for wine geeks (but remember, you no longer have to bring your own), the food is reliably good. Come with a hearty appetite. You’ll eat very well, fill up and take leftovers home. And you’ll still have money left in your wallet.

Nancy Heiser is a freelancer writer and editor who lives near Portland. Her work has appeared in national and regional publications.